WCU actors bring 'The Medium' to life

By Mary Ann Enloe | Apr 08, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Singers from the Western Carolina University's School of Music performed 'The Medium' at HART last weekend.

Gian Carlo Menotti's opera "The Medium" brought fake séances, murder and a 14-piece orchestra to H.A.R.T.'s main stage in a limited engagement Saturday and Sunday, courtesy of Western Carolina University's School of Music.

Directed by Mary Kay Bauer, five extraordinarily talented singers and crowd favorite Michael Gallagher playing the mute trickster Toby brought an enthusiastic standing ovation from an audience made up mostly of their peers.   Kristen Hedberg was perfect as the heavy-handed medium Madame Flora who coerced daughter Monica and her boyfriend Toby to provide the voices of the deceased children her bereaved customers paid to hear. Hedberg is a member of the adjunct voice faculty at WCU.

In her first lead role in an opera, Brandi Moon was both delightful and dramatic as the love-struck Monica. The final scene finds her running away in terror when her mother shoots and kills Toby after mistaking him for the "spirit" she thought she felt at her séance table. Moon is a WCU graduate student working on an advanced degree in choral conducting.

Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau, played by WCU graduate Christopher Corbin and senior Lauren Smith, tugged at heart strings as they strained to hear the voice of their dead son. Corbin, a 2006 WCU graduate with a bachelor of music degree in saxophone, is back at WCU seeking degrees in music and German. Smith graduates in May with a BFA in musical theater. WCU junior Corinne Minor as Mrs. Nolan presented a powerful picture of a mother begging to hear her daughter's voice just once more.

Musical director Bradley Martin did a masterful job leading the 14-piece orchestra around the twists and turns and starts and stops of Menotti's difficult score.

"The Medium" was presented on television in 1948 as a CBS Studio One feature. Menotti is perhaps best known for his created-for-television opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors," commissioned by NBC for presentation in 1951. He was also the founder of Charleston, South Carolina's world-renowned Spoleto Festival. Menotti left the festival in 1993 in a much-publicized parting of the ways. After living most of his life in New York, the 95-year-old Italian-born composer died in 2007 in Europe.

Menotti is not every opera lover's cup of tea. No matter. The WCU School of Music presented a stellar interpretation of an interesting and complex work. It is hoped that many more collaborations between H.A.R.T. and WCU will follow.

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