"We have a problem in the kingdom," began Ginger Calvario, as she explained the plot of Walla Walla Community College's upcoming original opera."Cendrillon" is in French and based on the Cinderella story. It is an original opera performed by Walla Walla Community College voice students and composed by instructor Kristin Vining-Stauffer.
Calvario, with a tiara boldly resting on her head, described her role as the frustrated and anxious matriarch who just wants to see her son wed. And maybe produce a grandchild or two.
"He's well educated, he's travelled," Calvario said as she turned her glance to Daniel Rose, who plays the prince. "But he's quite the ladies' man."
Calvario went on to explain how her son, though charming, hasn't found the right girl yet.
"We're hoping by the end of the week," she said, throwing another glance his way.
And so begins the story of "Cendrillon," the original Cinderella-inspired opera written by a Walla Walla Community College instructor and performed entirely by voice students.
French for "Cinderella," the operetta was written by Kristin Vining-Stauffer, a music fundamentals and piano instructor at the college.
Vining-Stauffer said the idea for the opera started as she wrote Cinderella-themed pieces for the city's summer dance lab. Eventually, she had enough pieces to put together an operetta.
The story borrows from the Cinderella fairy tale, complete with a wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and mice and birds who are Cinderella's only friends.
Rose explained how the story is set in more modern times and borrows a festive theme.
"The theme is like Carnival, Mardis Gras," he said. "It's like Hollywood, France."
As the stepmother, Eva Marie Katsel has wicked company with her two daughters, the "snob," played by Samantha Hughes, and the "princess diva," played by Serena Goins.
"We're just horrible," Katsel said.
"I only wear Dior," Hughes added.
Together they torment poor "Cendrillon," played by Sarah Hemenway. While rehearsing a scene, Hemenway goes through the motions of waiting on her family, getting them all they need as they feast on breakfast.
Hemenway, who dances and sings her way through the constant work, is destined to find her prince. The chance to sing while dancing and performing has been unique for Hemenway, who will transfer to Central Washington University to major in music.
"It's a whole new experience for me," she said about the opera.
The performance has been an original experience for the college's winter quarter voice class and vocal ensemble. There were no auditions for the opera, just the announcement by class instructors that the students would be participating in the production.
"A lot of us didn't know we were going to be in this," said Heather Smelcer, who sings in the chorus. "We just showed up to class and heard we're going to be in this."
Music and art students from the college are also collaborators. Students taking musical theory, music fundamentals and music appreciation have contributed original compositions. Art students created paintings that will be projected onto a screen on the stage to serve as backdrops.
Vocal instructor Julie Jones, working closely with Vining-Stauffer, is directing the opera. Morgane Filan choreographed the dancing scenes and Mike Rose, who is also Daniel's father, designed the sets.
Among the surprises for the students performing was learning that the singing and dialogue would be in French.
"We had to learn a new language," Calvario said. "It was a fun surprise when we came in our first day."
About WWCC's Opera
The opera will be performed March 20 and April 10 at 7 p.m. in the college's Performing Arts Theater.
Each performance is free and open to the public. Because seating is limited, please call Denise Marr at 527-4275 to reserve seats.