When Daniella Brancato, 17, listens to music on YouTube, it’s not Beyoncé or Shawn Mendes — she focuses on the opera performances she’ll have to duplicate for the full-scale production of "Die Fledermaus," which she’s starring in this weekend at Great Neck South High School.
“I actually have a subscription to the Met on Demand,” says Brancato, a high school senior who is playing Rosalind, one of the principals in the show about a trick played on a friend that goes awry.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the school’s opera program, and Saturday’s 7 p.m. performance will begin with a video about the opera’s history and tribute to people who have supported the program over the years. Alumni will join the cast on stage at the conclusion of the 2 ½-hour, three-act show, and there’ll be a post-show reception.
It’s difficult for professional opera companies to stay in business, so the fact that the high school has been able to continuously offer an opera program to students is something to celebrate, says Michael Schwartz, performing arts department head for the high school and the opera’s orchestra conductor and producer. “Over the years we’ve kind of developed a following, especially with the seniors who can’t necessarily get into the city to see the New York City Opera or the Metropolitan Opera,” Schwartz says.
The school choose "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss this year because it focuses on a festive party as well. Emily Gao, 17, a high school senior working on the opera’s backstage crew, says her favorite scene is the ball, when the stage is lighted in purple and blue and there’s a crescendo of singing and dancing.
While over the years the students have performed operas in French and Italian, they decided that for this year’s performances they would do the opera in English. There’s also a show at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Ashley Yu, 18, a Great Neck South senior who plays the part of Adele, says many people erroneously view opera as something for “older people” or “music nerds.” “You would think opera is not cool because of the stigma,” she says. But she has come to love it.
Brancato has become so much of a fan that she says she plans to major in opera in college next year, probably at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She says her love of opera started through her Italian heritage. “My grandfather used to sing opera in the car all the time,” she says.
Says classmate Grace Song, 15, a 10th grader who plays the flute in the pit orchestra: “You’re exposed to a different genre and style, which is really cool.”
Great Neck South High School is at 341 Lakeville Rd., Great Neck. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 senior citizens and students. Reserve in advance by calling 516-441-4851 or purchase at the door.