The Fort Hays State University Music and Theatre Department proudly presented “An Evening of Pastoral Opera” featuring “Bastien and Bastienna” by W.A. Mozart and “The Wandering Scholar” by Gustav Holst. Directed by Joseph Perniciaro and conducted by Benjamin Morris-Cline, the show was presented wonderfully.
As the audience took their seat, much noise abounded except for one: pre-show music. The unprofessionalism of the pre-show was not exactly appreciated. Pit members were taking pictures with their families, and the audience was subjected to random warm-ups by individual orchestra members. Some pre-show music would have added to the experience.
After a 10-minute hold, however, the show began strongly. “Bastien and Bastienna” flowed smoothly as the music glided into the air with dynamics coming out precisely. First to sing was Bastienna, played by sophomore Eriana Holle. Holle’s voice was strong, clear and most importantly, easy to understand.
Colas, the next character to perform, was played by Max Haverfield, a freshman. He played the part of “a would-be magician,” who was working his magic to get Bastienna to forgive Bastien for his wandering eye. Haverfield played the part well with a pleasing voice that also had clarity. One thing that distracted me was the drawn-in wrinkles, especially the ones on his cheeks. They looked out of place and might have needed more smudging.
On the other hand, his beard matched his hair perfectly, which was blown back into a crazy style. Finally we were introduced to the last character, Bastien. Luke Fairbank, a junior, played the part of Bastienna’s lover. His role was to get Bastienna to admit she still loved him even after he was seduced by another woman.
Again, Fairbank was just as strong and clear as the other members of the cast. Major enjoyment came from the audience in the use of facial expressions, specifically from Holle. A lot of the time she was trying to be mad at Fairbank, but the way she frowned made all the difference in the audience knowing how she really felt. The first half of the opera ended well, and the actors took a bow to a much-pleased crowd.
After intermission, the second half of the show began with “The Wandering Scholar.” Set in a farm house, we were introduced to Luis and Allison. Luis was played by senor Steven Cornwell and Allison by Alexandra Hutchison, also a senior. The show started in a foreboding tone as the music gave us a hint of what was to come. Cornwell came off strong, as did Hutchison.
The only flaw I saw was that sometimes Hutchinson’s lyrics were unclear. When she started climbing the music staff, I had to strain to hear what she was saying. Both their emotions, however, were over the top. It was obvious how upset Allison was with her husband, Luis, yet he went on like he didn’t have a care in the world.
Once Luis left, the real secret came out: Allison was being seduced by Father Philippe, played by senior Calder Craig. Once Father Philippe came out, the crowd erupted in laughter. Craig’s costume consisted of a balding head and a monk’s robe stuffed so he’d appear obese.
This raised the question in my mind of why Allison would even be seduced in the first place. Right at the key moment when Father Philippe was getting Allison upstairs, Pierre, the wandering scholar, arrived at the home asking for food. Pierre was played by another senior, Karl Pratt. Kind-hearted Allison couldn’t refuse Pierre, but Father Philippe was so frustrated that he drove the scholar away. When Allison heard her husband returning, she hid Father Philippe.
To no avail, Pierre was with Luis and, through a story, tattled on Father Philippe. As Pratt told the story he became animated, but at one point I felt Pratt’s voice was stretched too high, causing discomfort to hear. In the end, a chase scene occurred between Luis and Father Philippe with the latter never returning. Both operas were well done, and I applaud the hard work that went into them.