Opera and musical numbers are often thought of as only existing within the walls of large majestic halls, but every year music students take their abilities offstage and into a more intimate setting, wowing audiences and proving their versatility.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, students from the Moores School of Music and their supporters gathered at local watering hole McGonigel’s Mucky Duck for a night of hearty eats, plentiful brews, and… opera?
This was the Moores Opera Center’s annual What’s Opera, Duck? benefit performance. Complete with Oktoberfest brews and arias from shows such as the opera center’s upcoming “The Tales of Hoffman,” the event drew a packed house to the pub.
“It all happened because one of our students several years ago had been working at the Mucky Duck, and since then there’s been a series of waiters and waitresses from the opera program,” said Moores Opera Center founder and Director Buck Ross.
The Moores Opera Center is not the only classical group to take the Mucky Duck by storm.
“They do more commercial events, but some groups in town have traditionally done showcase performances like this at the Mucky Duck,” Ross said.
These other groups include the Houston Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Moores’ own choral groups.
The event is more than just a karaoke night for opera lovers — the musicians are encouraged to branch out of their comfort zones and into more popular genres.
“What’s Opera, Duck? gives them(students) an opportunity to try out repertoire that they don’t do throughout the year, such as musical theater numbers,” Ross said.
The experience of singing at an unusual venue is professionally valuable for the students as well.
“Some students have lots of experience doing things like this and some have none, but this experience is useful for everybody. Usually they get excited after the first year they do it and they decide immediately what song they’ll do next year,” Ross said.
Music education senior Blythe Hopson attended the event to support her fellow singers.
“I prefer musical theater in this venue because it is just more suitable. The arias don’t quite sound right here because of the microphone,” Hopson said. “Many musical theater productions use microphone, so it sounds more natural, whereas operas generally are not with microphone.”
Musical theatre numbers have the benefit of attracting more music enthusiasts to the Mucky Duck showcase. Examples of the show tunes on the program include “If I Loved You” from Carousel, “I Can Hear the Bells” from Hairspray and “The Song that Goes Like This” from Spamalot.
“Muscal theater is a little more crowd pleasing in nature than opera, I think,” Hopson said. “I think the showcase and its combination of genres is a great way to make these arts accessible.”
Music education senior Catherine Goode participated in What’s Opera, Duck? as a contributing talent. She said students use this as an opportunity to sing works that they are comfortable and confident with.
“People generally perform songs they know and love performing. I sang Olympia’s aria from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’ because I will be performing that role in our production this season,” said Goode.
“This event is a great way to advertise for our shows.”
The venue itself was an unusual setup for singers like Goode, whose singing is usually heard lilting from the stages in concert halls.
“I prefer more traditional venues, but I enjoy this kind of performance,” Goode said. “The only difference in preparation was knowing that I would have to sing into a microphone.”
Ross said he believes that the venue has a positive impact on turnout and audience satisfaction with What’s Opera, Duck?
“We have patrons that tell me that this is their favorite event of the year. I’d like to think that people’s favorite event was one of our stage productions, but this is an event that is unlike any other one that we do.”