Students to perform opera scenes

Students from the Weber State University Department of Performing Arts will showcase different opera scenes tomorrow. Spring Opera Scenes is an annual show put on by the Opera Scenes class that alternates between opera scenes and full opera performances. As a preview, the 2014 show includes many scenes from the 2015 opera, “Madame Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini.

Other scenes students will perform include samples from “Dialogues of the Carmelites” by Francis Poulenc, Mozart’s “The Impresario” and “La Cenerentola” by Gioachino Rossini.

Professor Karen Brookens Bruestle, WSU professor of music and director of the show, said she began having her students perform opera scenes back in 2005.

“I’ve tried to do a variety (of scenes),” Bruestle said, “ones that I thought would showcase positivity and showcase different emotions that are maybe different elements of emotion — anger, drama, or comedy.”

Another factor in picking the scenes is that typically, far more women sign up for the class than men. The selected scenes depict women in a range of scenarios. Bruestle said she tries to pick scenes for women’s chorus, allowing the majority of the class to sing together.

“(These scenes show) women in different situations: passion, love, jealousy, anger, frustration and strength — a lot of strength,” Bruestle said. “That kind of ended up being the theme in a roundabout way with all the different scenes. In the ‘Madame Butterfly’ scene, I actually have a student of mine, a female, who is actually doing a role — it’s really short but, it’s usually done by a man.”

WSU senior Heidi Robinson will perform in four scenes, including as the maid Suzuki in a scene from “Madame Butterfly.”

“For me, it’s just a really good experience to be able to act while you sing,” Robinson said, “because normally we just sing our arias and stuff for master class . . . When you’re putting on a show, you’re being a character, and it puts a whole lot more effort into it. It’s more real when you have a character.”

WSU sophomore Sarah Singer said all of the scenes are very different, but captivating in their own way.

“We’re doing stuff from ‘Dialogues of Carmelites,’ which is very interesting because it’s about a nunnery and how they all basically die at the end,” Singer said. “It’s beautiful music; it’s by Poulenc. It’s really sad, though.”

Singer will perform two scenes from “Madame Butterfly.” She said they are her favorite parts to perform, but she had the challenge of learning to sing in Italian. Bruestle said she thought it was important to pick opera scenes that teach about other cultures and languages.

“Madame Butterfly, she’s this really young (Japanese) teenage girl who got married really young, and she’s waiting for her husband to come back from America, but when he does come back, he has a real American wife,” Singer said. “So there’s that, and that’s really dramatic — like, the definition of opera being overdramatic and melodramatic.”

Singer described some of the other scenes, including “The Impresario,” as fun and entertaining. “The Impresario” is also in English, making it more accessible for the audience.

“The scene that they’re doing from it is about two divas who are trying to out-sing each other, Singer said.

Singer will also perform in a scene from “The Mother of Us All,” an American opera by Virgil Thompson, about Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage.

Bruestle plans to describe each scene for the audience, especially those sung in their original, often foreign, languages.

“We’ve got some really great singers doing really wonderful work,” Bruestle said. “There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of drama. Just sit back and enjoy.”

Spring Opera Scenes will be performed tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Eccles Theater located in the Val A. Browning Center. It is open to the public ages 8 and older. Tickets cost $7, or $6 for students, military personnel and children. Tickets are available at the box office or online at