New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Did you know NJ Stage offers FREE Event Listings? Nearly 100,000 listings were viewed in January. Be sure to add your events to our calendar and get your shows noticed!

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.

Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.
New Jersey Youth Symphony Chamber Music Concert In Chatham On November 18
(CHATHAM, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) Chamber Music Program presents their final concert on Sunday, November 18 at 7:00pm at Chatham United Methodist Church located at 460 Main Street in Chatham. The concert is free and open to the public. Students will perform trios and quartets by Shostakovich, Dancla, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart. The concert will conclude with the NJYS Octet performing Allegro moderato ma con fuoco from Mendelssohn Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20.
Backstreet Boys To Perform In Newark
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Backstreet Boys will release their new album, DNA, in January and head off in May on their biggest tour in 18 years.  The tour will take the band throughout Europe and North America with a stop at the Prudential Center in Newark on Sunday, September 15 at 8:00pm.
UCPAC Presents Father Alphonse Stephenson and Orchestra of St Peter by the Sea
(RAHWAY, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 1st at 8:00pm, the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, led by accomplished conductor, Father Alphonse Stephenson, will be bringing holiday spirit and cheer once again to the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) in Rahway. This performance will be early on in the Orchestra’s December tour of New Jersey, and it has become a yearly must-see show for dedicated fans at the center.
John Eddie To Perform A Free Concert At Hard Rock Casino & Hotel On Thanksgiving Eve
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- The Biggest Party Night of the Year is happening in Sound Waves at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 21 at 8:30pm featuring a FREE Concert with John Eddie.

Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!
"Magical!" Poco LIVE! at SOPAC
Music fans are filing into the beautiful South Orange Performing Arts Center auditorium on this gorgeous Saturday, October 13, 2018 evening for a performance by a group that helped to define the genre of country rock — Poco!

Event calendar
Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018


MARCUS KING BAND WITH SPECIAL GUEST IDA MAE @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Gunhild Carling & Friends @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 8:00pm

Toto—40 Trips Around the Sun @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Newark History Society Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan: The Life and Legacy of Newark's Own @ The Chase Room @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 7:00pm

Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm

Visiting Writers: Michael Waters @ Wilson Auditorium at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 4:30pm


Seeger @ The Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCCArts), Branchburg - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

THE CHOIR OF MAN @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

OPEN Auditions for Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage @ Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood - 7:00pm

Auditions: Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 6:30pm

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.