When you ask most college-aged people how they feel about opera, you might be met with a groan or a look of confusion. I’ve noticed that opera is an art form that is seldom appreciated among individuals my age. When I was in high school, I was a proud member of Opera Club. While we did not learn to sing opera, we instead gathered every Friday night to eat pizza and watch videos of a variety of classic operas. Thanks to the generosity of donors at Siena College, our club was able to attend live performances at places such as the Metropolitan Opera House, Glimmerglass (led by Colgate alum Francesca Zambello ’78), Tanglewood and Saratoga Opera House. Our colorful “Opera Club” t-shirts always distinguished us in a crowd of people much older than us.
I am a senior at Colgate now, but Opera Club still exists in my mind as a part of my past that has shaped me into the person I am today. It gave me an appreciation for art and creative expression. Having majored in Molecular Biology, most of my time in college was spent in the lab, pipetting clear liquids and asking questions about genetic pathways. And yet, I cannot help but to wish my past four years allowed for a more active participation in things related to opera and theater. Glimmerglass is not far away and neither is the Earlville Opera House. In recent years, a trip to Glimmerglass has been a part of the first-years’ theater pre-orientation. An Opera Club at Colgate could easily exist, and I wish I had started one during my time here. With such a strong alumni network, it would not be hard for Colgate students to connect with individuals who have two things in common: a love for Colgate and a love for opera.
For most people, starting a club from scratch is a daunting thing. According to a New York Times article in 2013, before Zambello ’78 was artistic director of Glimmerglass, she started a theater company at Colgate. She raised money and connected with people who could help her, building the same skills that helped her achieve career success years later. During my sophomore year, I helped one of my best friends start a volunteer club, Circle K International at Colgate. We struggled early on with limited membership and uncertainty about our ability to succeed. I realized, though, if you really believe in something and trust it will help people it is worth pursuing. This lesson haunts me now as I realize it was something I could have applied to “Colgate Opera Club.”
The best thing about opera is that it broadens viewers’ perspectives on creative expression across the span of history. It teaches you that stories can be presented in emotional and atmospheric ways, it exposes you to different languages and it allows for a deeper understanding of conflict, social status, desire and the human condition.
Encountering fellow opera-lovers at Colgate is nothing if not refreshing. In the last few weeks of my final semester on campus, I find myself realizing my favorite part about Colgate is the group of brilliant and quirky friends I met here. I love that my closest friends are interested in multiple things—singing along with The Rocky Horror Picture Show on a Friday night, dinner conversations about Chaucer’s medieval poetry and solving physics problems while listening to opera classics. During my time at Colgate, I have learned that if you have the courage to be a bold leader and take initiative, you can create the community you want to inhabit, whether that means starting a club for the first time or being interested in something as obscure as opera.
Contact Allegra Padula at email@example.com.