Attending new or unfamiliar performing arts events is a daunting task. Walking into a theater while unsure of the performance climate and culture is intimidating. How many people will be there? Where should I sit? Will I look like I don’t know what I’m doing? are common questions to ask oneself in these scenarios. And often, they’re enough to deter one from attending a performance altogether, to persuade one to stay home and inside their comfort zone. I certainly asked myself these questions when walking to my first opera event at DPAC this past Sunday. But in the end, I really wanted to attend this event, and my ignorance in the opera-sphere wasn’t going to deter me.
I’d taken classes with and met students involved with Opera Notre Dame before, but because of COVID precautions, I’d never actually been able to attend a performance. So when I saw Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience being promoted across campus, I was thrilled at the opportunity to experience my first works of opera.
Please Look is certainly a unique way to experience opera for the first time. As an abstract, filmed opera performance, Opera ND’s COVID-creation is truly a testament to their dedication and creativity. Produced by renowned Four/Ten Media, the performance takes the shape of short film vignettes featuring a variety of compositions sung by vocal students. Each short film is distinct, reflecting on the themes and tone invoked by the particular composition being sung. Through staging, lighting, and striking edits, the result is a truly cinematic creation. At times eerie, the performances of these student vocalists work seamlessly with Four/Ten videography to deliver a powerful piece of performance art, one which I am not likely to forget as an audience member.
Before the film began, Head of Undergraduate Voice Studies Kiera Duffy gave a brief overview of the work and its development. She said, “There were times I was watching this and I completely forgot that I was watching students,” and it resonated with me. I, too, got so lost in the piece that I forgot I was watching students, students whom I was sitting next to at that very moment. My previous worries about attending the show had evaporated. I no longer felt too ignorant or uninvolved to appreciate the performance; I felt like I was a part of it, and I left the theater feeling moved. As I exited the building, I gushed to one of the student performers about their incredible performance and they were thrilled to answer any and all of my questions. I wasn’t an outsider. I was welcomed in.
I wonder how many fellow students have felt like me, worried that they were too ignorant or too insufficient to attend a performance. If I hadn’t overcome these insecurities, I never would have experienced such a unique opportunity. I wouldn’t have gotten a sneak peek into real opera, and I wouldn’t have been there to support my peers. Going forward, I feel inspired to continue stepping out of my performing arts comfort zone and I hope more of my peers will feel confident enough to do the same.