UNCG’s Opera Theatre presented a 40-minute production of “Speed Dating Tonight!” this Halloween weekend in the Recital Hall of the music building. For those (like myself) looking for an introduction to opera, this production is a perfect fit. It’s fast paced, comedic and modern. Characters in the production are designed to be relatable and recognizable to anyone dating in the age of speed dates and online romance.
“Speed Dating Tonight” was written by Michael Ching and originally commissioned by the Brevard Music Center’s own Janiec Opera. Premiering in 2013, the piece has been composed in such a way that makes it highly adaptable. The libretto, written by Ching himself, differs on the amount of performers for the piece. It also allows for variation in gender roles, voice types and performance length.
Michael Ching was originally born from Honolulu, but hails mainly from New Orleans. Beginning at an early age on piano, Ching picked up a variety of instruments to further his interest of composing. He would later graduate from Duke University in 1980 with a degree in music composition.
The show consisted of short solo performances by caricatures trying to relate to their speed date in the short amount of time allotted to finding true love. Every actor had their showcase in this production, and the talent in the opera program was made apparent very quickly. The opera took place in a minimalistic “Joe’s Bar” where the cast mulled around, making small talk and successfully creating a “slice of life” scene that was believable.
The one-act opera explores tropes of desperation at the speed dating event: the quintessential “cat lady,” two characters addicted to their screens, and an inebriated woman who just wants to dance. It was silly and cheesy, but it all sounded so beautiful that it was not difficult to be transported into the character’s world.
The highlight was an emotional duet between two characters who have left previous, unhealthy long-term relationships and are “trying to put themselves back out there.” Speed dating seems like such a peculiar thing to have an opera about, but when the show addresses the vulnerability of these characters, it all starts to come together.
Unfortunately the opera came as quickly as it went. However, the two shows during the weekend gave newcomers to the opera theater a taste of what’s to come for the program this year. In November, you can catch the Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitor the 17 through the 20. You can check out UNCG’s performing arts calendar online to see what else the music department has in store, as well as keep yourself updated on announcements for future opportunities to see the music students in action.