Special to the News-Graphic
If you come to Georgetown College’s first full-scale opera in decades, you’re likely to be wowed by the professionalism – custom-made costumes, terrific voices, and super titles. What you won’t spot is the stereotypical fat woman with horns and pigtails – Student Musical Director Daniel Ng promises.
The Lyric Theatre Society of Georgetown College will present Domenico Cimarosa’s “The Secret Marriage” at 7 p.m., Dec. 4 and 5 in John L. Hill Chapel. Tickets are $15 for adults, $4 for all students with ID, and free for children under 10 (who will receive a student-designed coloring book that corresponds with the opera). Tickets are available in the College’s bookstore and may be reserved by calling (502) 863-8134.
Ng, a senior and native of Georgetown, is working right alongside Stage Director Heather Hunnicutt, head of the Lyric Theatre program and the College’s Coordinator of Vocal Studies. The two performed together earlier this year in Dr. Hunnicutt’s faculty recital. Their previous interaction has helped them to deal with issues regarding the opera without worrying about hurt feelings.
“We don’t have to sugarcoat what we say to each other,” Hunnicutt said.
The same applies to the rest of the cast, whose six principal members have performed together in events like the musical parody concert in October. “We’re like a football team that gets better from game to game,” she said.
“We face different teams with each different production,” Ng added.
According to Ng, the opera’s plot is reminiscent of a 1950s episode of “I Love Lucy,” if Lucille Ball was Italian and lived in the 18th century: Geronimo lives with his sister Fidalma and his two daughters, Elisetta and Carolina. When the opera begins, Carolina has fallen in love with Paolino, Geronimo’s clerk, and the two have married in secret. Carolina is in a higher class than Paolino, so Geronimo wouldn’t approve of their union. Paolino attempts to arrange a marriage between the older daughter, Elisetta, and a rich count, hoping that afterwards, he will get Geronimo’s blessing and can reveal the marriage. But when Count Robinson arrives, he decides her prefers Carolina. According to Ng, the lively comedy is perfect for those who have never seen an opera before, or those who assume they wouldn’t enjoy opera.
“It’s like tea. If you’ve never had it, you try sweet tea first,” said Ng. “This is not straight up, brewed out of the pot opera.”
All the music is in Italian, and the repertoire is very difficult. Ng provided weekly coaching sessions for each cast member (most of whom are performing in a principal role for the first time) to help them learn their parts. The opera is also a learning experience for Ng, who will be conducting a full orchestra for the first time. The ensemble is made up of Georgetown students and faculty, as well as some outside musicians.
The audience needn’t worry about the language. An English translation of the Italian lyrics will be projected onto a narrow, 40-foot wide screen above the stage. Hunnicutt, however, promised that patrons won’t need to look at the super titles to understand the opera. The performers understand the Italian words, and their facial expressions and exaggerated actions will convey the meaning, she explained.
“The way the characters act will feel 21st century,” she said.
Michael Cannon (Paolino), a sophomore from Stamping Ground, said he feels lucky to be involved with the opera and Lyric Theatre. “It’s wonderful that we have these opportunities here at Georgetown – thanks to Dr. Hunnicutt – because typically you don’t until you’re in graduate school.”
Likewise, Hunnicutt is grateful for talent of her cast and crew, four of whom are from the area. “Chuck Harris (Geronimo), Sarah Smith (Fidalma), Cannon and Ng are all Scott County High School graduates!” she exclaimed. “With their talent, they could be sharing their gift anywhere, but they each chose to give their art back to the community that cultivated it.”
Hunnicutt has performed in many operas herself, but “The Secret Marriage” has eluded her. She was cast as Elisetta as an undergraduate, but before rehearsals started the opera was changed to “Tom Jones,” and she was never able to sing the role. Hunnicutt also performed this summer with Ryland Pope (who plays Count Robinson) and Smith in “The Pirates of Penzance,” a production by the Highland Light Opera based out of Morehead.
Hunnicutt took 11 Georgetown singing students to Murray State University in October for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) State Competition and nine reached at least the semifinals. Most are in “Marriage,” including winners Ryland Pope (Senior Classical), a senior from Harlan who also took Best Singer/Artist Overall, and sophomore Harris (Underclass Musical Theatre).
“I truly believe that people will forget that they are watching an opera and start thinking they are watching a great theatrical production,” Pope said of Hunnicutt’s production. “From the opening scene, ‘The Secret Marriage’ has a heart-warming and humorous feel…and there are hysterical moments through-out.”
Although Hunnicutt touts her student performers as an ensemble, she is very quick to urge patrons to come watch and hear Ryland Pope’s star rise. Said Hunnicutt, “I absolutely believe that this exceptional singer is going to make it in our tough field. Ryland is going to set the opera world on fire!”
- Producer/Stage Director: Heather Hunnicutt
- Musical Director: Daniel Ng of Georgetown
- Stage Manager: Shannon Brunk of Lexington
- Artistic Director: Hannah Davis of Lexington
- Lighting: Shawn McPeek of Shelbiana, KY
- Conte Robinson: Ryland Pope of Harland
- Carolina: Cate Kilgore of Bowling Green
- Paolino: Michael Cannon of Stamping Ground, KY
- Elisetta: Sable Floyd of Somerset
- Geronimo: Chuck Harris of Lexington
- Fidalma: Sarah Smith of Stamping Ground, KY
- Chamber Maid: Madeline Gannon of Mount Sterling, KY
Lyric Theatre Society Doesn’t Want to be a ‘Secret’
If you would like to become involved with the Lyric Theatre Society of Georgetown College, call Dr. Heather Hunnicutt at 863-8056. The group has been selected to perform “The Secret Marriage” in Honolulu for the 7th annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities in early January. They will also bring the opera to the Hawaii Baptist Academy, a long-time partner of the College.