PROX: A Thesis Journey into Historical Opera

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BY SHANNON MCGUE

For her senior thesis, Flannery Cunningham ’13 put in the usual long hours in Firestone. However, all of her research was leading up to something a little less traditional – an opera called Weehawken. Named after the town in New Jersey where the famous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton occurred, Flannery’s opera tells the story of that duel and the events that led up to it.

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Flannery started on the project by learning about the conflict through original letters, speeches, and tunes from the time period – including some which can be found in the Princeton Rare Books Collection. Using these materials, she wrote the lyrics and score for the opera. Rehearsals began seven weeks ago, led by Flannery, artistic director David Kellett, and the musical director Kamna Gupta ’14.

I had the opportunity to attend and photograph one of the last rehearsals. It was enlightening to have a back-stage glimpse into the production process. I had no idea how much thought went into every “casual” background action, the positions of each player on the stage and the transitions between scenes. Even though singers were in their everyday clothes, the scenes were sporadically halted and restarted, and the sets were only half complete, the beautiful music and the intriguing story came through strong.

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Photos by Shannon McGue

The show begins this Friday in the Forbes Blackbox theater.

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