New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Tune into Radio Jersey with Lee Mrowicki every Monday through Friday from 6pm to 8pm
Broadcast on Asbury Music!

Timely Content, Timeless Music - Montclair State University Opera Workshop: Crime-And Punishment?

By Patricia Kiernan Johnson,

originally published: 12/07/2017

Timely Content, Timeless Music - Montclair State University Opera Workshop: Crime-And Punishment?

From politics to business to the entertainment industry, we are living in an extraordinary, historical moment. Those who were once voiceless and powerless have become powerful Silence Breakers. Even the opera world – one that I bet you rarely think about and which NEVER rises to the top of the news cycle – found itself the subject of breaking news alerts and the top story on the national evening news this week.

So it seems especially timely that on Saturday, December 9 at 8:00 p.m., Montclair State University presents “Crime—and Punishment?” a workshop performance by students featuring opera excerpts.

Directed by MSU’s Cali School of Music Professor Jeffrey Gall, the workshop performance includes portions from four seemingly very different operas: Ned Rorem’s “Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters” (written in 1968, based on the Gertrude Stein play), Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” (1885), Gluck’s “Iphigénie en Tauride” (1779) and Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia” (1946). Murder mystery, comedic operetta, tragic classic and modern chamber opera don’t, at first thought, seem to go together on the same program.

While musically disparate, however, there are thematic similarities. Director Jeffrey Gall tells me that he likes to program these workshop performances around a particular theme that he chooses – different every time. In this case, he’s selected works that all deal with acts of murder, sexual violence and suicide. (Here, of course, is our “crime” portion of the evening.) But as is often the case in opera plots, punishment (for the right characters) is rarely guaranteed.

For two hours, twice a week since mid-September, 24 MSU music students have been grappling with these challenges. The students have been researching the roles, contributing to props and staging, working on the characters and acting, and developing their performances.

Timely Content, Timeless Music - Montclair State University Opera Workshop: Crime-And Punishment?

It’s been exciting work, Gall tells me. Through their research and character development, Gall has been impressed with the students’ capacity to discuss — with great sophistication — aggressiveness, transgression and retribution in our own culture today and then translate that experience into different opera styles.

And that’s the point behind these workshops, Gall says. They are meant to simulate real performance challenges and situations, providing these students with invaluable stage craft experience. The students involved in the Workshop class represent a range of experiences – undergraduate and graduate alike. This is another reason for assembling a program of varying styles, says Gall. With students of varying experience and with a range of voice types, it allows him to program works that both suit and challenge them.

The singers in the “Crime—and Punishment?” workshop will be accompanied by piano. And if you’re worried about whether you’ll enjoy an evening of excerpts from operas that you likely haven’t seen before, don’t be – Saturday’s Workshop performance is only about an hour long, although there’s no intermission.

But I’m betting you WILL like the performance. One of the central excerpts on the program is the final scene from “The Rape of Lucretia” by Benjamin Britten, the British composer of such seminal works as “Peter Grimes,” “Billy Budd,” “Rejoice in the Lamb” (OK, maybe not seminal but truly one of my personal favorite choral works), “War Requiem” and “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” And Britten’s importance in the opera world ISN’T just because he’s by far the most important opera composer England has produced since Henry Purcell died in 1695. (Go ahead: Name me another English opera composer from any point in the following 230-odd years. I’ll wait.) Britten’s works – ranging from grand to chamber opera, choral songs reminiscent of Purcell, children’s works that are simultaneously sophisticated and charming, and potent symphonic pieces – are as powerful as they are musical.

And should “The Rape of Lucretia” excerpt whet your appetite for more, you’re in luck. This “Crime—and Punishment?” workshop is also in preparation for MSU’s full production of Britten’s “Rape of Lucretia” taking place on January 27 and 28. The students performing the excerpt on Saturday will return to these roles in the January production, although you might have trouble recognizing them. On Saturday, the excerpt will be performed in modern dress, while the January production, Gall tells me, will be in a “’Game of Thrones’/quasi-medieval environment.”

Timely Content, Timeless Music - Montclair State University Opera Workshop: Crime-And Punishment?

And although Saturday’s “Crime—and Punishment?” workshop is a one-night only thing, it is part of an ongoing series with a different theme and program each time. The next workshop takes place on April 30, and the theme has not yet been chosen.

The MSU Opera Workshop performances are part of the Peak Performances program, which was founded by Montclair State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programming in 2005. It brings a wide range of internationally acclaimed artists and productions to the Alexander Kasser Theater from many art forms. Of course, Peak Performances also presents numerous works by MSU music, theater and dance students – the next generation of artists.

The Details

Montclair State University’s Opera Workshop: “Crime—and Punishment?” takes place on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at the Alexander Kasser Theater, located at 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ. Tickets are $15; free for Montclair State University undergraduates. For more information, visit


(Because I know you want to go see MSU’s production of “The Rape of Lucretia” after this, too.)

Montclair State University Opera presents Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia” on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, January 28 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15; free for Montclair State University undergraduates. For more information, visit

About the author: About the author: Patricia, Jersey born and bred, is a lifelong arts lover, arts patron, performer and artist. One of the very few people who actually cheers when The Dreaded Opera Category shows up on Jeopardy, Patricia is also an avid Yankee fan (from birth) and is learning to become an Eagles fan (from marriage).

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Pioneer Productions Presents Wendy-Lane Bailey Women's Work
(DENVILLE, NJ) -- Pioneer Productions kicks off its new Living Room Series with Women’s Work - an evening of songs by female songwriters on September 16 at 6:00pm at the Arthur Murray Studios in Denville. Conceived and performed by singer/storyteller Wendy-Lane Bailey & composer/pianist Michele Brourman it has a funny, sometimes challenging but always defiantly feminine viewpoint that brings the worlds of Broadway, pop, and country together in one show.
Stone Pony To Honor Butch Pielka
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- A special day of music to honor the legacy of the original Stone Pony co-owner and manager, Robert “Butch” Pielka, will be held Sunday, October 7, from 2:00 to 9:00pm at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. The lineup includes reunions of Cats on a Smooth Surface and The Shakes, and Lance Larson.  More names are expected to be added.
Victor Wainwright & The Train To Perform At Lizzie Rose Music Room
(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- The Lizzie Rose Music Room presents Victor Wainwright and the Train on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm. A 3 time BMA Piano Award winner,  BB KING Entertainer of the Year Award Winner, and Band of the Year Award winner, Victor Wainwright is at the top of his game right now.  The band is touring in support of their latest record, The Train, on Ruf Records. Tickets are 30 in advance and $35 at the door.
State Theatre presents Lost 80's Live
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Lost 80’s Live on Saturday, September 20, 2018 at 8:00pm. The Lost 80’s line-up features some of the most iconic bands from the 1980s including A Flock of Seagulls; Wang Chung; Bow Wow Wow; Farrington and Mann, Original Vocalists of When in Rome UK; Naked Eyes; and Animotion. Tickets range from $48-$98.
White Eagle Hall Presents Sloan
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- White Eagle Hall presents Sloan, one of Canada's best power-pop bands, on Friday, September 7 at 8:00pm. The band recently released their first album in four years, 12, which has become their highest-charting album in their long career.  Tickets are $25.

Let’s Hang On’s Tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons LIVE! at The Strand
Q: So what do four guys from Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Massachusetts — and all currently based out of Florida — have in common with four guys from “Joisey” this summery August 3, 2018 evening at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ?
80's Tribute Band Almost Journey Rocks iPlay America
I never in a million years would have thought about iPlay America in Freehold as being an event venue. To me, it's a place to ride bumper cars, have kids' birthday parties and play video games. Never been there.
The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
As we make our way inside the Grunin Center of the Arts located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ, this Saturday, July 28, 2018, we see music lovers of all ages. Some of them are wearing street clothes but some are decked out in outfits from the 1970s and ’80s for tonight’s concert by the ’70s and ’80s tribute band, The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine.
Classical Guitarists Alex and Wesley Park LIVE! at The Great Auditorium
The bucolic seashore town of Ocean Grove, NJ is a place designed for quiet reflection and spiritual renewal. An artist sketches in the lush green park off Pilgrim Pathway. Still others read or meditate in the heart of this picturesque village which features gingerbread houses and colorful gardens, all just steps away from the fresh salt air wafting off the blue Atlantic Ocean.
“Rock and Roll Icons!” Hippiefest LIVE! at BergenPAC
A light summer rain is falling outside Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC this Wednesday July 25, 2018, as music lovers decked out in peace signs, tie-dyed shirts, and bell-bottomed jeans arrive for tonight’s Hippiefest concert event starring Vanilla Fudge, Rick Derringer, Mitch Ryder, and Badfingers’ Joey Molland.

Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.