May 16, 2022


art requires creative

UMSL Opera Theatre wins very first in NOA levels of competition for ‘The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret’

4 min read

From remaining: Madeleine James, Sophie Loban, Director Stella Markou, Gracelyn Penn and Lexi Neal placed initially in the Nationwide Opera Association’s Division 1 Opera Competitors for “The Intelligent Artifice of Harriet and Margaret.” Because of to the coronavirus pandemic, the display ran only when, a overall performance for solid members’ families only. (Image by Danny Reise)

Lexi Neal was attending a virtual conducting class when she observed a number of missed calls from Stella Markou, affiliate professor of new music and director of vocal research as well as opera theatre at the College of Missouri–St. Louis. Neal, a senior songs college student, quickly became anxious that one thing was amiss.

She could not have been a lot more incorrect.

Instead, Neal found out that, along with castmates Sophie Loban, Madeleine James, Gracelyn Penn, Swabu Jefferson and Nick Bashaw and Markou, they’d gained 1st spot in the National Opera Association’s Division 1 Opera Competitors for their general performance of “The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret.”

“I could not believe that it,” Neal said. “We all thought so a great deal in this creation, the chemistry and the tough get the job done, but to get a countrywide award, to obtain that degree of validation for anything that you worked so challenging for, is just unbelievable. It was remarkable. It was so shocking. What a wonderful commence to your Tuesday.”

The earn, which would have been pleased news underneath any celebration, was made a lot more poignant by the disruption induced by safety diversifications because of to the coronavirus pandemic. “Clever Artifice” had initially been slated for a run in March.

Markou and Neal ended up live in studio at St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU’s “St. Louis on the Air” to advertise the show when they been given the news on air that the UMSL campus was closing. It was the day before their to start with overall performance. Host Sarah Fenske asked if the demonstrate was cancelled.

The two had no prepared response.

“We generally experienced to go away the interview for the ultimate gown rehearsal. Following our rehearsal, I keep in mind just combating back tears, working offstage and calling my division chair,” Markou said.

That simply call started a chain of conversations that sooner or later resulted in exclusive authorization to do just one efficiency for household customers only, which was recorded for posterity and for the competitiveness.

“That efficiency that night time was the most intimate, inventive experience in my daily life,” Neal claimed. “It was like everything that we have been working on for all people months all of a unexpected clicked. We felt a connection with our viewers. We felt a link with each and every other that we had by no means felt ahead of. It was so satisfying. It was a when-in-a-lifetime encounter that really created the backbone for all of our life likely ahead as performers.”

The opera capabilities a conversation between two females when, at the same time, two players act out their inner dialogues. Markou loaded not only the role of director but also vocal mentor and designer for costumes, sets and lighting. Piano accompanist Gail Hintz served as tunes director for the manufacturing and Assistant Professor Darwin Acquino was conductor.

Markou notes that “Clever Artifice” is a distinctive piece that was assisted along to the get by the tough do the job and expertise of the forged customers.

“I’m terribly very pleased of my learners, their resiliency and their means to get on challenges and excel and provide their incredibly very best,” she claimed. “The actuality that we experienced some closure, and they experienced an chance for their cherished ones to see all their tough do the job, even for that minute, genuinely manufactured that functionality unique.”

The UMSL Opera Theatre application has manufactured high-quality productions and gained many accolades in its 13-calendar year tenure. Markou recalled her very first opera to acquire countrywide recognition, “The Mikado,” which received next spot at the NOA levels of competition and demonstrated that program size was significantly less of a aspect than placing heart, soul and operate into the productions.

Continuing on this route, she is already considering about long run musical opportunities for her students, such as a mini creation with a cabaret taste for the spring semester. Markou is also doing work on her future concert works and editing a CD venture.

As for Neal, she’s on monitor to graduate in spring 2021 and is operating on implementing to graduate faculties for a master’s diploma in opera or classical reports. No matter of where by she finishes up, however, she’ll often glimpse again to her UMSL encounter.

That explained, a couple of times from the “Clever Artifice” specifically stand out. She recalls catching solid member James’ eye impromptu in the course of their general performance.

“She and I the two attained out for every single other’s fingers,” Neal claimed. “We just held palms and looked at each other, each welling up with tears. It was these types of an authentic, uncooked emotional minute. That was possibly the most special instant.

“But the 2nd most distinctive minute was every time we lastly took that curtain call. It was seriously unique to be standing by the sides of all these persons that I had grown up with. It was anything that I’ll bear in mind for good.”


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