A Night of Italian Opera

Noelle Barbera, Kevin Courtemanche, and Shane Schag perform a selection from Verdi's La Traviata

Being on an island as Caribbean as St. Maarten, we often don’t think about a “night out” as anything more than going with some buddies to a club by the beach or a party on a yacht blasting reggae music. Although to the average tourist this island seems to be just a big playground for adults, with casinos, clubs, bars, and beaches abound, once you live here long enough, you start to realize that there is always something for everyone on this island.

And this past Thursday, I found something for some friends and me.

This past Thursday, some friends and I dressed up in shirts, ties, and nice dresses, and went on a night out to see a performance of Italian Opera and classical piano! It was a really good concert and I was very excited.

I’ve always loved classical music. In fact, I grew up with it. Raised by a mother who was a music teacher, it’s no surprise that I was learning my do-re-mi’s at the same time as I was learning my ABC’s. Classical music, specifically classical piano, was the backdrop of my life. My mother taught me piano starting from age five until when I was about 9 years old. I then took lessons from a well-known piano teacher in my hometown of Macon, Georgia until the end of high school. During this time I competed a lot, and performed in many local concerts, including a solo performance with the Macon Symphony Orchestra to a group of 3300 school children around the region. I didn’t pursue music in college, but I tried keeping up with it as my dwindling time allowed, accompanying piano to a choir class for several years and doing a few paid gigs for musical plays with local theaters.
Dressing up for a Night of Italian Opera!

Dressing up for a Night of Italian Opera!

Dressing up for a Night of Italian Opera!

Everywhere that I have lived, there has always been a piano around for me to play anytime. I did not know how much I could miss the piano until I came to AUC. I tried looking for one on campus… no luck. Then I tried looking for one in every hotel I’ve passed by… no luck. Just when I was about to conclude that there probably weren’t any pianos on this island, I saw the flyer for the concert. This night was for me.

The performance took place at the Belair Community Center in Philipsburg, about a twenty minute drive away from school without traffic. The venue is smaller than most concert halls I’ve been to, but there was a large crowd attending. As I entered the hall, I saw another side of St. Maarten I’ve never seen before: A crowd who dresses up in ties and gowns for a classy evening, reminding me of all the times as a child when I went with my family to see Operas and the Macon Symphony Orchestra. Traveling all the way from New York, the soprano, tenor, and two pianists (who were a husband and wife team) worked in harmony to perform songs from Bizet’s Carmen to Pucchini’s La Boheme to Verdi’s La Traviata. The husband and wife playfully performed versions of familiar classical tunes with four hands on one piano. The concert ended with a stunning performance of Nessun Dorma from the opera “Turandot” by the tenor, and of course, there was a standing ovation then an encore from another Puccini opera. It was a treat. Only $10 for AUC students for a classy night on the town, the concert was both amazing, educational, and fun for everyone in my group. There really is something for everyone on this island!