Home Lifestyle Wingate Opera performing comic operetta ‘The Cousin from Nowhere’

Wingate Opera performing comic operetta ‘The Cousin from Nowhere’

Students practice "The Cousin from Nowhere." Photo by Wingate University

Every year when selecting an opera to perform in the fall, the Wingate University Music Department considers one question above all others: What will benefit students the most?

“We look at the students we have,” says Dr. Jessie Wright Martin, director of opera. “What is going to serve them best?”

A year after a veteran cast performed the collegiate debut of an original show, Wingate Opera is back with a younger group performing the operetta “The Cousin from Nowhere.” The comic tale of childhood sweethearts and mistaken identity will be performed Oct. 28 and 29 in McGee Theatre, in the University’s Batte Center.

Wingate operas are always student-led productions, and this year is no different. A dozen students will perform next weekend, in addition to those working behind the scenes.

They are creating a production that will appeal to newbies and longtime opera fans alike. First produced in Germany in 1921 as Der Vetter aus Dingsda, “The Cousin from Nowhere” is essentially a romcom. It tells the tale of Julia, who pledges her undying love to Roderich before he leaves on an extended journey to make his fortune. Seven years later, another man, posing as Roderich, attempts to woo her, only for the real Roderich to return.

“Students learn pretty quickly that what we do is not that different from musicals,” Martin says. “There’s pretty tunes, and it’s humorous. To have such a high level of music with such fun, campy dialogue is great.”

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Martin first encountered “The Cousin from Nowhere” while spending summers singing with an operetta company in Ohio. She knew that the silliness of the story would appeal to undergraduate students, and she and Dr. Annie Stankovic, associate professor and musical director, decided that eschewing an orchestra would work best for the crop of students she had available this year. Stankovic, on piano, will serve as conductor and orchestra.
“Our responsibility is to serve the students,” Martin says. “Our current students will be much more successful performing with piano instead of an orchestra this year.”

Last year, Wingate produced “Behold The Man,” a comic opera about the botched restoration of a fresco in a Spanish village. The show mixed a variety of musical styles and featured a unique digital set designed by longtime Wingate collaborator Greg Stump, who is again using projection screens this fall for “The Cousin from Nowhere.”

Producing full operas in the fall, in addition to opera scenes in the spring, gives students a taste of real-world performing and gets them out of their comfort zone.

“It is exciting to see them grow as they come in as freshmen,” Martin says, “and by the time they are seniors they have challenged themselves in ways they didn’t think they could.”

Wingate Opera is performing “The Cousin from Nowhere” Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m. Wingate students are admitted free. Tickets are $10 for all other attendees. To buy tickets or for more information, see the events page on the University’s website, wingate.edu.

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