Windermere Preparatory School will stage “The Medium” this week at its Cypress Center for the Performing Arts.
When Hannah Nagle heard Windermere Preparatory School was going to be producing its first opera this school year, she knew immediately she wanted to be in the show.
“I love opera singing, especially — I have more of a classical voice,” Nagle said. “Being able to have this opportunity to do the first opera at Windermere Prep has been really special; especially to have such a pivotal role.”
Nagle stars as Baba, who also goes by Madame Flora, in Windermere Prep’s upcoming opera production, “The Medium,” which runs Sept. 19 and 20 at the school’s Cypress Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at teachtix.com/wps/the-medium. The production is rated PG-13.
Emily Tousek, high-school director of choirs and international baccalaureate music at Windermere Prep, is directing the production. “The Medium” is a short, two-act dramatic opera with words and music by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The opera features a cast of six students and follows the story of Baba and her daughter, Monica, and how Baba — a con artist — uses her fake psychic abilities to scam people out of money.
“(Baba) is a fake medium,” Tousek said. “Her job is she cons people into thinking that they’ve contacted their loved ones through these fake seances.”
Tousek described the production as “a con that turns into its own mystery along the way.” Part of the opera also follows a romance that develops between Monica and hers and Baba’s servant boy, Toby.
“Toby is their mute servant,” Tousek said. “He has been adopted by Baba, but she does not treat him well. She treats him very terribly, but Monica loves and cares for him.”
Although “The Medium” is Windermere Prep’s first opera production, it isn’t the first time the school has featured opera music at the Cypress Center for the Performing Arts, and it also isn’t the first time Tousek’s students have performed the style, she said.
“It is the first time we have done an opera, (but) we have previously had students perform arias or opera choruses,” Tousek said. “We have had, for about the last three to four years, an event called ‘An Evening of Concert Music and Opera’ that we would do in the wintertime, and one of the things in my job as the director of choirs is I would have my students learn a couple of different opera choruses. So, this was an opportunity for them to experience a different type of choral singing and a different type of, really, stage singing.”
Nagle, a Windermere Prep senior, is no stranger to the stage. She’s been a theater student since her freshman year, but this current production is her first opera. Nagle said she has an affinity for portraying dark characters, and although the role of Baba fits that bill, some aspects of the character proved to be a challenge.
“Baba is next-level,” Nagle said. “I like being able to set myself in the mindset of someone I know nothing about. She’s drunk, she’s very old, she has abusive demeanors, and I wanted to be able to find how I could connect myself to that (type of character), which is very challenging. … I just really like (playing a role) that’s not my normal demeanor. I like to think of myself as a very positive and nice person.
“Having to act like Baba (challenged me), because I don’t know a lot about how being drunk can affect a person,” Nagle said. “I did research behind it. I talked to people, and I looked more into the history of the opera itself to give myself a better understanding of how to portray this character. And I watched prior performances from schools that have done this (opera), and it gave me a better comprehensive understanding of the character itself.”