A legend offers up a “Master Class” on the nature of art and creativity during the next production from Prospect Theater Project.
The play also proves to be a surprising portrait of famed opera star Maria Callas. Written by Terrence McNally, “Master Class” is based on courses that Callas taught at Juilliard late in her life. Prospect stages the play Friday, July 20, through Sunday, Aug. 5, at is downtown Modesto theater.
McNally’s play is an artist’s rendition of the facts of Callas’ life, combined with the myth that surrounded her, according to a press release from Prospect. Over the course of the class session, three students come in for the opportunity to be coached and molded by the opera legend, and then each are is dissected by Callas.
“Callas knows that truly great opera singers are more than just pretty voices,” the release said. “It is not enough to be precise, to sing on key and on beat. It is not enough to simply get louder when the score reads crescendo — the opera singer must be an actor, an analyzer of text, a student of human nature. To aspire to be like Callas is to want to lay your soul bare in every note.”
But Callas also bares her own soul in the play.
“While coaching and chiding each pupil, Callas slips in and out of her own past, reliving events that are funny, raw, heartfelt, and tragic,” the press release said. “We are given glimpses into the hardscrabble days of childhood, her painfully self-conscious early adulthood, her first marriage, her metamorphosis into superstar status, her tumultuous relationship with Aristotle Onassis, and with each insight into her world, we see the mask slip away, leaving her completely vulnerable.”
Opera singer Annalisa Winberg stars as Callas in the Prospect production. Winberg has performed with companies worldwide including the National Theater of Guatemala, the Tyrol Festival in Austria, the San Francisco Symphony, the German National Opera of Weimar, the Opera Orchestra of New York and others.
Winberg’s daughter, Carolina Stevens, will direct the play for Prospect. Stevens was co-winner of the 2014 Valley Talent Project and recently graduated from Southern Oregon University with a degree in theater.
Rounding out the cast are Margaret Zabel (Emmie/Accompanist), Kayla Wilfong (Sophie/Soprano 1), Khris Sanchez (Tony/Tenor), Charlotte Khuner (Sharon/Soprano 2) and Jordan Proch (Stagehand).
The bulk of the cast has been commuting from homes in San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Oakdale and Stockton for the production, the press release said, “and we are absolutely thrilled to have such a far-ranging group of artists in the theater to bring this work to life.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays July 20-Aug. 5
WHERE: Prospect Theater Project, 1214 K St., Modesto