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Nazareth's Opera Workshop " The Medium" a haunting and spiritual journey

Published December 13, 2018

Nazareth College Department of Music’s Opera Workshop is presenting a full production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, a haunting and spiritual journey of Menotti’s own encounter with a medium during dark and untrustworthy times. The performances will be held on Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Callahan Theater, located in Nazareth College Arts Center at 4245 East Avenue, Rochester, 14618. Tickets are free, no advance reservations required. For an added bit of fun, attendees can enter to win a free tarot card reading with Readings by Nico (enter to win will take place at event).

The Medium is directed by guest artist Emily Cuk, who holds a degree in opera performance from Bard College and a master’s from the Eastman School of Music. The creative team also includes Dr. Kevin Nitsch, music direction (lecturer in music at Nazareth College); Rachel Hall, assistant director/graduate assistant (Nazareth College); and Dr. Katie Hannigan, opera workshop leadership/support (coordinator of vocal studies at Nazareth College).

“They’re learning how to problem solve, how to think on their feet, and how to continue to grow as a performer,” said Dr. Hannigan. “It’s not about what they do, it’s about who they meet and the experience that it provides for them as people. It’s about the experience and about that personal, individualized relationships that people get to have. That helps a lot with continuing to grow as an individual towards what you want to do and your life’s work.”

To help the cast understand the weighty subject matter of the opera, the creative team connected with Corinne Dempsey, professor of religious studies and director of the global studies program, to lead a workshop on spirituality and mediums. Dempsey also teaches a course at Nazareth on mysticism and spirits and has written a book on the topic: Bridges between Worlds: Spirits and Spirit Work in Northern Iceland.

Split into two acts, Menotti’s The Medium is equally as dark and twisting as it is comedic. An underlying connection to World War II and the trauma it caused looms in the background of the story. A manipulative and alcoholic medium, Baba, works together with her daughter Monica and a gypsy mute boy named Toby to conduct séances for her clients, who believe they are talking to those they’ve lost. Overlapping themes of innocence/crime and truth/deception are prevalent in this story, which ultimately leads the characters down the path to destruction.

Sophomore Alexis Tuccio (music education) plays the role of Toby, who is speechless. “Toby’s character is silent, yet, has so many complex emotions he’s trying to express,” said Tuccio. “Doing this without the use of voice is an interesting challenge. It’s wonderful to explore my acting skills and see how I can develop the character without ever actually opening my mouth.”

Nazareth College has a wide array of music majors involved in this production including music education, music therapy, general music, vocal performance, master's of music in performance and pedagogy, and many more. The production allows for double-casting, and covers: Rachel Hall and Hongyu Han (Baba), Jessica Tripi and Katelyn Santiago (Monica), Charlotte Stevens and Alexis Tuccio (Toby), Joel Touranjoe and Toby Young (Mr. Gobineau), Brandon Parks (Mr. Gobineau cover), Yingxi Liu and Emily Kielbasinski (Mrs. Gobineau), Haley Brunstad (Mrs. Gobineau cover), Tessa Hildreth and Mckenzie Rybka (Mrs. Nolan), and Morgan Beaton (Mrs. Nolan cover).

Tickets are free for this event. No advanced reservations are required. Visit the event page or Facebook page  for more information, or to enter a raffle for a chance to win a tarot card reading with Readings by Nico. 

Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

The Nazareth College Opera Workshop will present Menotti's "The Medium" on January 25-26. Here, student Hongyu Han plays the medium Baba (center) surrounded by student performers (l to r) Morgan Beaton, Brandon Parks, McKenzie Rybka, Emily Kielbasinski, Toby Young, and Haley Brunstad.