'Cendrillon': ASU student directs an opera to support female composers

Doctoral student Lauren Berman directs a cast of undergraduates in a unique spin on the classic story of Cinderella

As apart of her doctoral degree in music, ASU student Lauren Berman is directing her take on the operetta “Cendrillon” created by Pauline Viardot to highlight the talent of undergraduates and put female composers at the forefront. 

She enlisted the assistance of music graduate student Nathan Arch and a few undergraduates to make her production, which takes the stage this Monday Nov. 7, a success.

Lauren Berman said she has always wanted to pursue career in music education, but she strayed from this original plan in order to improve her own musical skills.

“I started as an education major, and then while I was working on that I got way more involved in performing," Berman said. "So I went and got my Master’s in performing and spent a couple of years auditioning and performing and then realized that what I really wanted was to keep working at a high level with voice students. I decided to work on my doctorate so that I can hopefully work in a university setting working with college students and more advanced singers and help them in discovering the things that I found as an undergraduate.”

Berman said that although she has been involved with theater since she was 5 years old, she did not perform her first opera until her freshman year of college. She took everything she learned from her experience on the stage and used it to help her direct her production “Cendrillon.”

Berman said that she chose to put on a production of “Cendrillon” because the work of female composers is not as performed or as well known as the work of male composers.

“I had been trying to figure out what my topic was going to be for my final doctoral project, and I was really focused on women composers and how little their works are done now," she said. "The whole conversation kept being like ‘Why don’t we perform them?’ And I realized that if I was going to make any kind of impact, what I really needed to do was to put the work of a woman composer out."

Berman said the opera was written for developing voices, so it gives younger people the chance to perform.

"I felt that this would give an opportunity to the undergraduates at ASU who often don’t get roles in operas because there are so many grad students who get them,” she said.

Because most undergraduates do not get parts in the operas performed at ASU, Berman cast almost exclusively undergraduates to perform in her production. Her two lead roles, The Prince and Cinderella, are played by two female undergraduates.

Ashton Bates, a vocal performance junior and The Prince in “Cendrillon," said that getting the opportunity to be in Berman’s opera has been an interesting experience and has helped her adapt to playing certain roles.

“This is my first opera that I have been in at ASU, and it’s been really interesting because it is student run,” she said. “If anything, it has really opened my eyes to the art of opera as a whole. Especially because I am a woman playing The Prince. It’s forced me to really explore that aspect of acting when it comes to portraying the opposite gender. So it’s been very a great learning experience.”

Melody Startzell, a vocal performance senior and Cinderella in the opera, said she is most looking forward to performing for the crowd and getting a chance to put on an opera with other talented students.

“I looking forward to most of all entertaining everyone, but also getting to work with amazing, talented people and bringing something like this together,” Startzell said.

Nathan Arch, a music graduate student, has also played a crucial role in making “Cendrillon” a successful performance. To fulfill his recital requirement for his Master’s degree in music, Arch served as the music director and will be playing the piano accompaniment for the opera with his piano. He said that the ASU community should come to their performance to show their support for the students in the opera.

“I think the (community) should be supportive of fellow undergraduates and all the hard work they put into this,” Arch said.

Berman’s production of “Cendrillon” will be taking place on Nov. 7 in the Recital Hall on the Tempe campus from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit the ASU events website or the School of Music events page.


Reach the reporter at kzgaskin@asu.edu or follow @kiya_gaskin on Twitter.

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