UM Opera Theatre’s production of “The Light in the Piazza” was a delight. From the first number, senior opera student Emma Johnson’s dazzling soprano and Emmy-winning Mary Donnelly Haskell’s elegant vocal strength left me wanting more.
The entire production was awe-inspiring. UM Opera beautifully executed composer Adam Guettel’s challenging score. There wasn’t a number I didn’t enjoy. The show was incredibly well cast, with each solo promoting the audience to rapturous applause.
In addition to vocal amazement, the show was visually stunning. From crisp projections, graciously provided by UM Theatre, to the Johnson women’s brightly-colored costumes, “The Light in the Piazza” had it all.
This production process was unique to the university, as it utilized the talents of students, faculty, alumni and industry professionals. Directed by artist in residence Blake McIver Ewing and with music directed by both UM’s own Amanda Johnston and the show’s composer, Guettel, the cast was given a unique opportunity to showcase their craft.
“I think we hit the nail on the head with this,“ said producer Nancy Maria Balach. “It gave our singers an opportunity to hone their acting skills and helped us to think of where we, as a department, want to go in terms of our capabilities and the shows we can produce.”
“The Light in the Piazza” truly captured the talent and potential of our university’s music department and its students who, according to Balach, have blossomed and excelled.
“The growth and commitment during this process has exceeded (my) expectations,” Balach said.
The show broke new ground for UM Opera, as it was performed on both Friday, Nov. 19 and Sunday, Nov. 21.
“If people are coming in for a football game on Saturday,” said Balach, “Who’s to say they wouldn’t want to see something artistic on Friday?” And she was right. Both Friday and Sunday, the Ford Center was nearly at capacity as community members fled to experience a night at the theatre, even on a football game weekend.
As the first fully staged production UM Opera Theatre has been able to produce since the coronavirus pandemic began, “The Light in the Piazza” has been long anticipated by students, faculty and alumni.
Overall, this weekend’s production was one to be remembered. The cast and crew built a beautiful world in which they eloquently portrayed Elizabeth Spencer, Craig Lucas and Guettel’s magnificent work. Their show perfectly embodied the potential of UM Opera and left me in excited anticipation of the future of musical and theatrical arts on campus.