Taking the stage at the Columbia


University students performed in "The Beautiful Bridegroom" at the Columbia Theatre. Jacob Summerville/The Lion's Roar

The Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts hosted two operas, both written by American composer Dan Shore. The tragedy “Works of Mercy” kicked off the show on Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. followed by the comedy “The Beautiful Bridegroom.”

Staff Accompanist and Director of Opera/Music Theatre Workshop Charles Effler gave an overview of Shore’s works.




“Most people don’t pay much attention to film scores, but much of the emotional content of films is evoked through the music whether it’s a newly composed score, a collection of popular music or a combination of the two,” said Effler. “Music, with or without lyrics, has the ability to invoke emotional responses from people. Because of the nature of the story, a tragedy, and the fact that the main character, Ersilia, has an anguished and emotionally tortured soul, the music reflects this.”

Written in 2002, “Works of Mercy” is a tragedy based upon the Luigi Pirandello play “Vestire gli ignudi.”

Effler discussed the musical challenges that the play presented.

​“The opera was written to be sung by masters and doctoral students at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, one of the largest and best music schools in the country,” said Effler. “Our singers are undergraduates at a small state university, so the music was a difficult challenge from the very beginning. In addition, each of the students has had to take an emotional journey to find the best way to portray their particular character.”

“The Beautiful Bridegroom” followed a short interlude, and one attendee expressed her thoughts on the mood change between plays.

“It was definitely good to do because everyone was really sad that the girl died,” said senior music major Randi Gaspard. “And so, putting something lighthearted really gets our mind off it.”

Effler described the plot and mood of the play.

“The opera pokes some serious fun at the main character of Madam Terentia, a middle-aged, wealthy widow, because she decides to hire a matchmaker to find a ‘beautiful boy’ that she can marry even though she has two daughters who are of marriageable age but do not have husbands,” said Effler. “Remember, this is the middle of the 18th century. Wealthy girls were supposed to marry men whom their parents chose for them based on family history and fortune. Love may or may not have entered into the arrangement and was not the primary motivator for a marriage.”

Junior music major Elizabeth Langley, who played Ersilia Drei in “The Beautiful Bridegroom,” shared her thoughts on the performance.

“While this show was difficult at times because of the emotion it created, my cast and director made my experience wonderful,” said Langley. “Chuck Effler and Rachel Harris are incredible artists and always made sure the rehearsal process and atmosphere was safe and pleasant. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to portray Ersilia, and I can honestly say this has been the most amazing artistic team I have worked with. I hope those who attended the performance enjoyed it and took home a message to think over.”

Freshman music major Caitlyn Rodrigue, who played Terentia in “The Beautiful Bridegroom,” talked about her experience with her first performance.

“We put the show together in less than a month, and in the end, I felt more than prepared for the performances with the help of our music and stage directors,” said Rodrigue. “I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to do the opera workshop this spring.”

Gaspard explained how the live music enhanced the performance.

“Live music lets the performers give and take on what they’re going to make a longer note or a shorter note,” said Gaspard. “Certain words need more feeling, and the orchestra can really gauge that from the performer’s perspective.”