Serfs, Sirens And Serenading Animals


It’s not a phantom, the opera has certainly appeared.

The Opera Workshop, produced and directed by Charles Enlow, is returning to SCC.

The workshop got its name because it functions as a “working” learning studio or classroom, according to Enlow. Within a safe learning environment, students are offered an opportunity to try singing character roles. The workshop offers training that can build on their future performances and careers.

Among others, the workshop will feature the “Command Performance,” written by Seattle composer Bruce Monroe exclusively for SCC’s theater program.

The program has been at the college since the 1970s. Unlike many other colleges in Washington, according to Enlow, SCC’s Opera Workshop has a full orchestra, is fully staged, and has costumes. Enlow has produced and directed the workshop since 2008.

“Command Performance,” directed by Lee Ann Hittenberger, takes place under the rule of Russian Empress Catherine the Great in the late 18th century, as Russia became captivated by western opera. The tale within “Command Performance” correlates with the historical background, when serfs (Russian laborers/slaves) were bound to their lord’s estate.

During the opera craze, serfs were trained to sing, dance and perform at their lord’s command. Ambitious aristocrats decided to put on an extravagant shows on their estates with their singing serfs to keep their vocal chords trained and to entertain the guests.

However, a young aristocrat who despises opera and is attempting to run away from home arrives at one of these estates. The serfs’ constant musical melodies disturb him and in the end, his father commends the serfs for their art and the embarrassment of his son.

SCC student and performer Clara Todd, who plays a serf named Marina, said that working with the workshop has been a “great experience.”

Monroe’s experience as a professional orchestra composer is well-known in Seattle, and his newest exclusive production for SCC only adds to his list of accomplishments. According to Todd, the show has been a work in process throughout rehearsal, as “Command Performance” had never been performed before.

Another SCC student and performer Amin Fuson said that “it’s been a little challenging” as the opera is making its world premiere and the performers don’t have anything to look at for direction besides their script. Fuson plays the father of the young aristocrat who runs away from home.

The opportunity for actors such as Todd to be able to have creative freedom with how they interpret their characters allowed for professional growth and creativity to flourish. But “Command Performance” also offers challenges. Enlow said that “there’s no precedent to fall back on” in an interview with Rachel Evans from the communications and marketing department.

“They’re exploring their capabilities and expanding and refining their skills as musicians, actors, and performers,” he said.

Todd said that Monroe came to their rehearsal for the first time on Feb. 12 and removed a dance number they had been practicing for the show, since Monroe did not see it fitting into the performance, with Todd reassuring him that they would “just go with the flow” despite changes. The wide range of character freedom allows performers such as Todd “to not be in a rhythmatic confine, and makes it fun to be an artist.”

Appearing alongside “Command Performance” will be the regional premiere of “The Quartet” by Seattle composer Bern Herbolsheimer and “The Golden Apple” by John Latouche.

“The Quartet,” an adaption of a well-known Slavic story, is a smaller opera featuring five animals who become curious about the art of orchestra but learn the hard way that they may not be meant for instruments.

“The Golden Apple” tells the mythical tale of Penelope and Ulysses with a modern twist. The story begins in Rhododendron, Washington, during the first decade of the 20th century. The re-telling of the “Odyssey” and “Iliad” story incorporates a significant American twist, with Ulysses fighting in the Spanish-American War while Penelope awaits his arrival in Rhododendron.

Todd takes on the role of Penelope, who patiently waits for her husband to come home after a 10-year journey with singing sirens, stolen wives and Circe.

Another SCC student and performer, Nova Clark, will be making her “stage debut as an actual character” in “The Golden Apple” as Ms. Juniper. For Clark, it has been “a wonderful introduction to stage.”

Anita Proudfoot, a former student at SCC who has returned to help promote and advertise the music department on campus, also performs in “The Golden Apple” as one of the Mystics. Proudfoot majored in graphic design during her years at SCC, but came back to school to work with the workshops as it was “something she really wanted to do.”

Now, the workshop is in its 45th year. The fully staged opera production was partially funded by a Community Project Grant from the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Council, who support projects that “enhance” life in Shoreline.

“We’re honored the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council recognized the college’s

contribution to the arts in our community with the Community Project Grant,” Enlow said in his interview with Evans.

The 45th Opera Workshop will be performed 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Feb. 23-24, and from 3-5 p.m. on Feb. 25. General admission for the public is $20, SCC students pay $12 and non-SCC students, seniors and staff pay $16.