The Opera Theatre of Yale College will present their first show of the season, “Pigmalion,” on Friday and Saturday.
Pigmalion is a one-act opera that was originally written in 1748 by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. OTYC’s production of this opera will feature an all-female cast.
“With an orchestra and different dances, the whole point of the opera is just entertainment,” musical director Lucine Musaelian ’20 said. “Every time we play the last rondo, people are just partying and dancing — it’s really special.”
“Pigmalion” is an adaptation of a myth in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It follows a character, Pigmalion, as he falls in love with a statue he creates. The opera explores how the statue comes to life and celebrates the love between Pigmalion and the statue.
OTYC chose this play during a pitch meeting last semester. Musaelian said the organization puts on a Baroque opera every year and explained that the organization’s members are interested in early music. She said that now is a great moment to put on “Pigmalion” because French Baroque opera is typically musically challenging, and most people in the club right now are well-equipped to perform it.
Director Isobel Anthony ’20 noted that opera is very physical and thus, difficult to master. The group could not simply pick shows they liked, Anthony said.
“You have to find a show that will work for the voices that you have,” Anthony said. “Undergraduate voices are underdeveloped and can only handle so much.”
Because the original opera incorporates ballet dancing, Anthony said that her stage direction “naturally translated into dance and movement.” To highlight this aspect, OTYC paired with the student-run dance company A Different Drum, Anthony said. She added that A Different Drum and OTYC share the vision of making “high level art” accessible to undergraduates.
According to Musaelian, it was important to study historically informed practices before making decisions for the production. She said the show’s music is simultaneously dramatic and deliberate.
“What’s special about French music at this time it that is has this cheeky aspect to it, yet it was performed in a royal setting which is proper and regal,” Musaelian said. “Because of that, it’s very florid and gestural and at the end of the day, all about dance — it shows this very beautiful, interesting part of French history.”
Lucy Ellis ’22, a chorus member in the production, said that unlike plays, operas allow her to turn off the part of her that is thinking about what she is doing and simply enjoy the music.
A mission of OTYC, according to Musaelian, is to make classical music and early opera more accessible. They do so by using subtitles, keeping performances short and making them as relevant to modern audiences as possible, Musaelian said.
Anthony said students are often less attracted to operas because of musical technicalities the genre requires. She hopes the audience will leave “Pigmalion” with a greater curiosity about the art form.
“[Opera] is the most incredible marriage of literature, poetry, music, acting, dance and visual art. I always think of it as one of the most complete art forms in that it encapsulates so many other forms,” Anthony said.
OTYC was founded in 1993. The organization is entirely student-run.
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