Bravo Opera Company puts finishing touches on this weekend’s performances of ‘Street Scene’

Aaron Bravo and Leslie Atkinson are in the student ensemble cast of “Street Scene,” being performed by the UTRGV Bravo Opera Company on April 23-24 at the TSC Arts Center. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Photo gallery: “Street Scene” dress rehearsal

By Cheryl Taylor

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – APRIL 19, 2016 – Bravo Opera Company at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will present “Street Scene,” an opera by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes, on Saturday, April 23, and Sunday, April 24, at the TSC Arts Center in Brownsville.

Co-directed by UTRGV School of Music faculty members Dr. Nicole Asel, assistant professor, and Dr. Jeffrey Seppala, lecturer of voice, “Street Scene” was a play written by Elmer Rice, which Weill and Hughes adapted as an American opera in the mid-1940s.

Thirty-eight music students will participate in the UTRGV production.

The story takes place in an East Side New York tenement neighborhood in the mid-1940s.

Music education major Aaron Bravo, from Harlingen, said he likes his role of Sam Kaplan, the “boy next door.”

“I connect to Sam unlike any character I have played before,” Bravo said. “He is just a normal, shy guy, and I can relate to that. Of course, there are aspects of Sam that are nothing like my everyday self, but just having a simple idea of who he is and the way he thinks helps me become the character.”

Musically, Bravo said, the role of Sam is one of the most demanding roles he has attempted.

“Most of the songs I sing are really high in my voice and require a lot of me, so it has been a challenge just trying to find a way to sing with a full sound, while still singing smart,” Bravo said. “Taking care of my voice is very important, especially with a role like Sam.”

Brownsville native Leslie Atkinson is playing Bravo’s love interest, the “girl next door,” in the Saturday evening performance.

“I was cast as Rose Maurrant in December, and I immediately began researching my character, her family and neighbors in 1940s New York,” Atkinson said. “I began preparing the music and memorizing my lines in early January.”

Atkinson admits her role of Rose is a difficult one.

“Kurt Weill’s music is so beautiful, but also intricate and challenging,” she said. “The music for my role is difficult in terms of rhythm, balance and range, but we are all so fortunate to have such talented directors and accompanists helping us learn and stretch ourselves every step of the way.”

Alondra Gonzalez, a music performance major from Matamoros, Mexico, plays Rose in the Sunday matinee.

“Last semester I was in the chorus, so Rose is my first leading role,” Gonzalez said. “It is something completely new for me, to be not only singing but also acting, and I have been practicing a lot. At first I was a bit nervous watching my cast mates who are more advanced, but this is wonderful experience for me.

Rose’s father, Mr. Maurrant, is played by senior Robert Reyna, from Harlingen, also a voice performance major. During his studies, Reyna was fortunate to attend the Cornish-American Song Institute in Falmouth, on the southern coast of England’s Cornwall County.

Iliana Zendejas, a sophomore music education major from Brownsville, plays Rose’s mother, Anna, in the Saturday performance. Brenda Garza, a junior music education major from Brownsville, plays Anna in the Sunday matinee.

“This is a different kind of challenge for our students,” said co-director Asel. “The Bravo Opera Company historically present comedies. While ‘Street Scene’ has lots of charming and funny moments, the piece deals with issues of domestic violence, cultural differences and social class. The students have worked very hard on building unique, historically informed characters, while singing very demanding music.”

Curtain times for “Street Scene” are 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, and 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, at the TSC Arts Center.

“Street Scene” is a Student Ensemble Series, with general admission of $5; there is no charge for Patron of the Arts members.

For more information, contact Patron of the Arts at (956) 882-7025 or 

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