For the first time, Simpson College opera students had the opportunity to work with a guest stage director.
Traveling from Manhattan, New York, Crystal Manich hopes to inspire and open student’s eyes to the new possibilities as performers.
“The idea that I may be able to shape their lives and careers is extremely rewarding. The level of talent here is very impressive and surpasses my expectations,” Manich said.
Manich is co-Artistic Director of Opera Omnia in New York. She has also directed her own productions in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, and Buenos Aires. Manich has also served as assistant artistic director for Cirque du Soleil.
She was presented with this opportunity by assistant director of music, Bernard McDonald.
Manich and McDonald first worked together in 2007. Since then, they did a project together in summer 2012 on Don Giovanni for the Bay View Festival in Michigan.
“We work very well together and that is why Bernard brought me to Simpson,” Manich said.
“This will be the first time that students will have had the opportunity to work with a stage director and acting pedagogue who is active in the professional world solely as a stage director,” McDonald said.
McDonald explained that this is a fast-changing profession and this is yet another way students can remain ahead of their peers.
Both the students and guest artist will be gaining a valuable experience with this project.
“I haven’t had many opportunities to work with students, so this is a fantastic eye opening experience for me,” Manich said. “I enjoy the energy of young singers and their eagerness to learn and perform well.”
Manich will also be offering acting classes outside of opera rehearsals, which she hopes will be a beneficial addition for this process.
Senior Aimee Allen believes this project will help create networks and develop a taste of the real world.
“It is an incredible experience for Simpson students to have a guest director because it offers a new perspective and learning experience,” Allen said. “In the future it could be a really great connection that opens up new opportunities.”
Allen will be playing the fairy godmother for the Simpson première of Massenet’s Cinderella (Cendrillon) by Jules Massenet.
“This is a rare opportunity for Iowa audiences to see a fairy tale told with music of great wit and sensuous beauty that creates a world of magic,” McDonald said. He will also be the conductor of the show.
Manich agrees with the rarity of this performance.
“It’s rare to have this piece produced anywhere let alone Iowa, so it is not to be missed,” Manich said. Her goal as a director is to always present a piece of theater that will be memorable to the audience.
“Everyone should come see the show because – it’s Cinderella! What’s not to love about the classic fairy tale story of Cinderella,” Allen said. Allen described that the show will be filled with beautiful music, costumes and sets; plus all the magic, love and humor every fairy tale has.
This will be an extraordinary challenge for students according to McDonald. He is looking forward to the large ensemble cast and their commitment to the show.
“They love it,” McDonald said. McDonald is planning to generate more possibilities like this one for students in the future.
“In the future we plan to create opportunities to work with talented guest directors, designers, and master teachers. This broadens our already comprehensive offerings for students and will help maintain our preeminence in the training of singers at the undergraduate level,” McDonald said.
Manich plans to work with Simpson Opera and McDonald again.
“There is an opportunity to do quality work here because of Bernard’s dedication to the students and also because of the level of talent, which is rare in undergraduate programs elsewhere,” Manich said.
Performances for Cinderella will be February 15th-17th in Pote Theatre.