As PCC’s spring semester approaches its end, the days become longer and the campus gets a lot quieter. However, just outside the Center for the Arts building, the sound of swords clashing can be heard from the Jameston Amphitheater. The outdoor space is filled with students from the opera production class at PCC preparing for the opening night of “Pirates of Penzance” on May 18th.
Maria Fortuna Dean, opera professor and second-year director at PCC, has been working tirelessly since February to cast the roles and piece the production together. Students who are in the opera had to audition at the beginning of the semester in order to earn a spot in the class and be part of the cast.
“At PCC, it’s just a class so you never know who’s going to walk in the door and we just got really lucky, as we always seems to,” said Dean. “We got some really wonderful people who are both music majors, but also people who are coming in and just taking a few classes.”
“Pirates of Penzance” is a two-act operetta telling the story of how Frederic, a pirate-apprentice, falls in love with Major-General Stanley’s daughter, Mabel. The plot is complex, with the pirates, Pirate-King and Major-General standing in the way of the couple. The cast will be performing Act I in the Jameson Amphitheater, then relocate to Westerbeck Recital Hall for Act II.
“It’s always important to find a piece that will involve as many people as we possibly can,” said Dean. “We have leads that are really [vocally] advanced, down to small roles that could be sung by students, and then a really good chorus that could get a lot of people involved.”
The costumes for the opera have been designed by Mara Keledei, a PCC student who has been “living in the costume shop,” according to Dean. This is the first time Keledei has been a costume designer for a big production. She was recommended by her previous professor, Jessica Peel Scott, from the Costume Crafts class offered at PCC and has been measuring the cast and putting together pirate costumes ever since.
For some students, this is the first opera they’ve ever done. For others, it is the first production they’ve been a part of. Some of the cast members are beginners, while others have their master’s degrees.
“The nice part about this is that ‘Pirates of Penzance’ is like an operetta, a Broadway-opera crossover,” said cast member Linda Monteil. “We have a lot of musical theater people and a lot of people who a very classically trained. It’s a good place to meet in the middle.”
The cast has been rehearsing twice a week, five hours each, but now that opening night is approaching, they are going to be rehearsing six hours a day. During rehearsals, Dean stops the cast to fix where they sit, how they laugh or where they place their umbrellas. Every detail is perfected so that the performance is flawless and the audience leaves the theater in awe.
“We’ve been working on it so much,” said cast member Yasmine Cordoba. “I know we’re going to have a good show and it’s going to come together.”
Opening night is on Friday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. The show will also be performed on Saturday, May 19 at 2p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 1p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission ($10 for students, PCC staff and seniors) and will be available for purchase at the Center for the Arts Box Office one hour before the performance.