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Dueling Divas give a different meaning to opera

Wendy Reynolds and Brigit Fioravante perform as the Duelling Divas; an opera they created and are touring nationally. It’s an opera like no other, full of comedy and entertainment, and it came to the University Theatre of the Boca Raton campus in February.

“Who knew opera could be so much fun?” writer Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald asked. That’s exactly the goal of Reynolds and Fioravante with their musical. Taking on innovative characters and adding an elaborate and twisted storyline, their production gives insight to a new type of opera, one filled with humor.

“We did shows that just had three people [sopranos] singing on stage and thought it was getting boring for them and audiences,” Reynolds said. “So we decided to do just two sopranos, and thought that was dull, so we touched it up with comedy, characters, and more.”

Opera and comedy combined is something most uncommon. Opera is usually just serious, sad and dramatic, not silly, fun and geared toward audience participation.

“We did our first performance of Duelling Divas in 2005, and the audience reaction was amazing. People really seemed to love the comedy and interaction we had with them,” Reynolds said.

The opera features three distinctive characters, Baroness Vladka von Loudenstimme, Gwendoline Josephine Bellevoix Bouvier and Paige Turner. The divas are Loudenstimme and Bouoiver and the pianist of the musical is Turner.

The storyline is simple: Baroness Vladka von Loudenstimme enjoys the stage but enjoys drinking off stage more. So she hires Southern belle Gwendoline Josephine Bellevoix Bouvier, to sing for the audience so the Baroness can sprint offstage for drinks.

With the performance seeming as though it had nothing to do with divas, duels or even opera, Reynolds and Fioravante added their own special ingredients for a complete opera experience.

“One pianist named Paige Turner, 18 costumes, a horned helmet, spear, light saber and a lot of Puccini later, the diva duet becomes a duel,” Fioravante said.

Not only that, but Fioravante feels like this new type of opera allows for the performers to be just more than one told what to do and sing.

“We have created the whole thing and pretty much have total control of divas. With other performances you have little control and you’re just a performer. Here we created something new, where we can devise the craziest plot, add whatever we want to it and do anything we want to it before or even while performing. It’s like our baby,” Fioravante said.

Heather Coltman, chair of the FAU Music Department, accompanies the divas on the piano. She accompanies the divas on every tour, and her character, Paige Turner, plays the piano endlessly while the divas battle to be the best singer on stage.

“We are enthusiastic about our performing partner and firmly believe that Miss Turner [Coltman] possesses a true musical gift,” Reynolds said.

Audiences near and far have enjoyed the opera for its interesting approach to the musical genre.

“I went to the performance at the FAU Boca Raton campus, and it was funny and made me realize opera isn’t all that bad.” Palm Beach State College freshman Brandon Wolfson said.

With the audience enthusiasm and the performance being on tour, the divas enjoy the praise and popularity they have received.

“The best thing about performing is that in our opera we get to add-lib stuff while on the stage, it isn’t the traditional type of opera,” Reynolds said. “Promoting for the show and getting to be in character and having audience participation are what really make the performance so new and popular.”

Reynolds and Fioravante plan to come back to FAU to perform their opera.

“It’s actually this school that got us more involved in coming to more college campuses. College students understand our humor and the first audience response we got from here has been our inspiration for performing back here and at other campuses,” Reynolds said.

With the divas being a big success already, they are anxious to begin on bigger and better projects to make their opera a treat for everyone.

“We plan and hope to get on TV, do some merchandising and have the diva [empowered woman of history] become a part of college lectures in women studies. That would be great.” Reynolds said.

For more information about the opera or the divas, go to www.duelingdivas.com.



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