Masterclass is a 1995 play by American playwright Terrence McNally, presented as a fictional masterclass by opera singer Maria Callas near the end of her life, in the 1970s.
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek Soprano and one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Receiving her musical education in Greece from 13 years of age, she later established her career in Italy. In her final years she gave 24 Masterclasses at the Juilliard School in New York, on which this play is based.
This production is performed by the new group Questa Teatro, the theatre and musical theatre branch of the Questa family.
This play has been described by some as “haunting” and yes, I saw and felt it. Maria Callas seems to be communicating with her audience through the medium of Merilee Brunet. The audience is invited into the sadness and joy of parts of her life and what drives her, namely her Art.
The art not just of singing but of feeling. As Callas reminisces, the stage is black, the lights in the theatre are dimmed and there is one bright spotlight, one amazing star above her head. I feel I am rambling but it is hard not to do this when you have spent two hours captured by a performance so different from anything I have ever seen before. Enraptured by the voice that seems to capture every feeling and take you on a journey with tears streaming down your face. You will need tissues.
Merilee Brunet’s outstanding performance is complimented by a series of interactions with different students, all of whom gave splendid performances. I was curious to know who Manny, the pianist, was in real life as there is no mention of him in the programme?
However, this was a distinguished, talented and professional cast and there are two further performances on Friday 7 February and Saturday 8 February at the Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth.
I know very little about Opera and even less about Maria Callas, but this play has been a revelation and a springboard to further research and enjoyment of both Opera itself and Maria Callas in particular.
All I need now are some flowers to throw. Where are the roses?