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On Feb. 25 in the Covington Theater, the Virginia Opera stopped by on their statewide tour. However, there were only two members that performed, Andre Peele and Taylor Raven. Both singers are a part of the emerging artist program, which means they are not yet part of the opera but in training for the principal parts.
Both of the singers did not wear any microphones because their voices were so powerful and were only accompanied by a piano on stage. The director then went on to explain that the first half of the performance was entitled “Deep River: Marian Anderson’s Journey.” Mrs. Anderson was a great singer and humanitarian that made spiritual operas a more popular art form. All of the songs were sung as part of her opera had a religious point.
The first piece performed was titled “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” and was sung by Andre Peele. This song was very upbeat and joyful, and talked about finding ways out of troubling times in life and putting your faith in God. It is a song meant to remind the listener that no matter how hard life may be, just remember that one day God will take you home to Heaven.
Taylor Raven performed the next piece sung. Both artists took a turn performing, the song titled “My Lord What a Morning.” This was a slower piece of music. The singer speaks of the many trials she has faced in life, yet knows that because she places all of her faith in God, he will guide her throughout all of her troubles.
Andre Peele then sang a song called “Ride on King Jesus.” This was much more upbeat song about how faith in God cannot be hindered by anyone who questions them. The song states, “He is the almighty maker and will be praised no matter where he leads me to spread his word.” This was my favorite song performed because it had an amazingly powerful message.
The next song performed was “Deep River.” This song helped Marian Anderson make her mark in spiritual singing. The song spoke of the next life she will have with Jesus. Marian wrote it from the point of view of a slave and spoke of the hardships they faced every day. Yet, they never lost hope in God coming one day to take them home.
After Taylor finished his song, she stayed on stage and Andre walked out to join her in a rendition of “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.” This is a popular church hymn that people in the audience knew and were encouraged to sing along with the performers. This duet was very upbeat and written as a thank you to God for always loving us, even when we mess up and accepting us as we are.
After intermission, the performers sang songs from different operas to showcase their repertoire. Taylor performed a love song called “Ribbons Down My Back” from the opera “Hello Daddy!” It was a shorter song, yet was slow and sweet. It was meant to depict a young woman with a crush hoping to catch his attention by wearing bright colored clothing and ribbons in her hair that flowed all the way down her back.
Andre then came back out to perform a song called “Ol’ Man River” from the opera “Showboat.” This song was meant to be from a slave’s perspective as he worked tirelessly every day at the edge of the Mississippi river. Every night, “Old Man River” would sail by on his showboat and the slaves could listen to the performances. The slave singing envied “Old Man Ricer” and wished for nothing more than to be freed from slavery.
The director of the opera came back out on stage to describe the next piece. It was titled “Sequidilla” from the opera “Carmen.” He went on to explain that mezzo-sopranos, those who cannot reach as high of a vocal range as a soprano, get back reputations in the world of opera. Since sopranos always get the lead roles, mezzos are often given roles to play a male, or if they are lucky, a lowly maid girl. However, the opera Carmen was groundbreaking in the way that a mezzo-soprano was cast for the lead role. The song itself was sung in Italian but was a very energetic dance folk song.
At the very end of the performance, both singers graced the stage one final time to sing “Two Sleepy People,” which is not part of an opera written by Hoagy Carmichael. This duet is a song about two lovers who, even though are very tired, do not want to say goodbye to each other. So, they get married in the middle of the night so they will never have to be parted again. It was a very sweet way to close the performance.
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