The Sam Houston State University Opera Workshop and the Center for Early Music Research and Performance (CEMRAP) have collaborated for the first time to present “The Sacrifice of Berenice” by Carlo Agostino Badia on April 14 at the Gaertner Performing Arts Center.
Badia wrote this piece in 1712 and although he was one of the most influential composers at the time, all of his work was lost in history.
CEMRAP’s board director Mario Aschauer, Ph.D., traveled to Europe and dug through archives to find this short piece.
“I’m Austrian so I went to Vienna over Christmas and I was looking at about ten pieces and then I found this and thought it was perfect because it’s not too difficult and it has exactly the orchestration that we have at our disposal here,” Aschauer said.
The opera will be sung in Italian with strings and harpsichord accompaniment. Translation will be provided by Opera Workshop director Rebecca Grime’s, Ph.D., narration and subtitles projected above the curtain. This opera will feature Baroque acting.
“Baroque acting deals with a lot with ancient rhetoric, meaning it’s really the delivery of a speech of highly stylized poetry,” Aschauer said. “It is supported by rhetorical gestures, so the idea is the entire person impersonates that text. They’ll find a gesture for individual words to be performed as gracefully as possible.”
This hour and a half piece was composed for an empress’s 21 birthday and then never performed again until this Thursday.
SHSU’s student ensemble will go down in history as the first to perform this piece on this side of the Atlantic and junior SHSU opera singer Cecilia Delarosa does not take that lightly.
Delarosa believes that music can make a difference in people’s lives and that opera is more than the Richard Wagner horned Viking lady stereotype.
“It’s really just an intense study of emotions and the way people react to each other,” Delarosa said. “It’s this whole world of different art forms that meet up in opera. It’s a very high form of music not many people can do.”
Delarosa and the other 24 students have practiced all semester to launch this romance, which is set in Ancient Egypt about a woman’s devotion and willingness to sacrifice anything for her husband.
However, this love story does not come without humor as there are only four characters but about twelve singers which result in some pants roles, which is when an actress appears in male clothing.
“There are girls playing a man’s part because there’s only two girls and two guy characters,” Delarosa said. “It’s been really funny blocking it because the teacher told them to figure out how to walk like a man, talk like a man and shake hands like a man.”
The performance will take place in the recital hall of the GPAC and is free and open to the public