sin opera poster

(CSUF School of Music)

Seven deadly sins became seven deadly scenes for a devilish weekend of opera.

Cal State Fullerton’s school of music presented “Opera Meets the Seven Deadly Sins” — an assortment of seven scenes from varying opera productions, each inspired by the titular sins. 

Director Kerry Jennings oversaw the show’s four day run, which concluded on Sunday. With only a 70 minute runtime, the cast had little time to woo audience members, but they didn’t need long to capture attention.

Starting with a scene from “Dido and Aeneas,” Envy's opener doubled as one of the night’s biggest scene stealers. Kiana Hamzehi’s Sorceress was green in more than just clothing, inspired by the sin of envy. Hamzehi’s daunting, powerful opera coupled with the voices of two witches — and the occasional, witty emergence of the chorus — foreshadowed a strong rest of the show.

Envy was followed by the vanity-inspired excerpt of “Too Many Sopranos,” a comical scene where four sopranos would rather journey to hell than become heaven’s altos. The scene was a ripe opportunity for its stars to showcase their vocals, easily filling Recital Hall.

Greed, sloth and lust-inspired scenes all followed with their own leads and supporting roles, transitioning smoothly from one sin to the next with speakers contextualizing each opera piece. Viewers don’t need to be familiar with opera to understand the pieces or just have an enjoyable 70 minutes at the theater.

Among distinct details was the set design, which shifted in accordance to each sin. Set and costumes coordinated with a distinct color, from Vanity’s violet-tinted heaven to the pastel blues of Sloth. The color choices were a smart move to avoid large set pieces while still making the stage feel full. With vibrant projections and strong lighting, sins like lust and envy lacked a physical set but didn’t need it.

Costuming details bolstered the performances of the actors that wore them. Notably, in the sloth-inspired “The Rake’s Progress,” the carefree, loose clothing of Yngwie Zamarippa’s Tom Rakewell contrasted artistically with the charm of Haocheng Sun’s Nick Shadow — a nice move by the costuming department.

The most intriguing setting choice was Gluttony’s excerpt from “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” which rather than retreat to the usual 16th century setting, transported the opera to the 70s. Bright orange backgrounds made way for the impressive vocals of Thalia Moore’s Mrs. Ford, backed by equally riveting castmates.

The night ended with Wrath, a booming group number which — for obvious reasons — was selected from “The Grapes of Wrath.” The small stage grew crowded with the cast as they simulated cars driving down the hallway, and their voices carried easily through opening night.

With the vocalists come the musicians that perform with them. Mark Salters, David Bergstedt and Jens Hurty played through each scene with easy confidence, matching the performers on stage. Between the musicians, the vocalists and the set that held them, the elements came together nicely.

“Opera Meets the Seven Deadly Sins” is a smooth addition to the school of music’s comeback, following over a year-long hiatus of live performances. While the subject matter may have been sinful, the performance was certainly not.

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