Above: Meleana Cabales, far left, rehearses with her castmates for the upcoming opera workshop showcase “What If.”

Life is made up of many moments and decisions that lead to the next. But how would things have played out if we made a different choice, gone in a different direction, decided to pursue another opportunity in a different city? College of Charleston Opera explores the power choices can have in shaping our lives with the showcase “What If,” featuring popular selections from opera and music theater that represent the student-performers’ hard work and perseverance.

Featuring works by Richard Strauss, Gioachino Rossini, Georges Bizet, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, among others, “What If” gives voice students an opportunity to put what they’ve learned into practice. “What If” is a part of an opera workshop course that gets these students ready for future productions.

“This yearly scenes project prepares them for the larger productions that we do in the Sottile Theatre and in Lowcountry schools for Children’s Opera,” says Saundra DeAthos-Meers, director of opera and assistant professor of voice. “They are able to practice walking, singing and acting at the same time before they have to do it on a larger scale.”

With a mixture of opera and music theater, “What If” connects the personal narratives of the student-performers to the choices and actions of characters from shows such as Carousel and Don Giovanni. A total of 16 CofC students will perform large ensemble numbers, trios and duets. 

“’What If’ challenges both the audience and performers to think how the butterfly effect can influence our lives,” says DeAthos-Meers. “What if a different choice had been made? ‘What If’ gives the College’s voice students an opportunity to answer this question through their lived experiences and music.”

meleana cabales and her castmates rehearse a scene for the showcase what if

Sandra DeAthos-Meers directs students as they rehearse a scene for the showcase ‘What If.’

Performances will take place at the Chapel Theatre at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, and at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Tickets, which can be purchased online through the George Street Box Office, are $10 for CofC students; $15 for faculty and staff; and $20 for adults.

The College Today spoke with Honors College student Meleana Cabales, a vocal performance major and arts management minor, about her passion for music, preparing for this performance and her hopes for the future.

When did you discover your passion for singing?

I was first introduced to classical voice when I started taking lessons as a freshman in high school. It was a new experience that deepened my passion for music and made me realize I could sing in college and beyond. My choir and voice teachers introduced me to a wealth of musical opportunities, so I dove in and never looked back.

Have you always liked singing? 

Music has always been a big part of my life. Some of my earliest and best memories are from listening to the radio in my dad’s car or watching my mom play piano. It was a natural progression for me to get involved and sing along. I joined my first choir in second grade and have loved singing since!

Are there any major influences that guide your personal style or technique?

There is a lot to learn and even more people to learn from. Because of that, I try to listen and watch a wide range of singers and opera productions. I also switch things up so I don’t get stuck imitating other people’s techniques and choices. Although I have my favorite singers, I want to become my own artist and make my own decisions.

What kind of preparation is involved for a workshop style performance like “What If”?

Rehearsals are very important when it comes to this program because of how collaborative it is. Everyone is responsible for learning a couple of scenes from a musical or opera, on top of the full company chorus numbers. A decent amount of work must be done outside of rehearsal as well. Learning your part in the practice room, translating foreign lyrics, practicing your staging, etc. If each person prepares individually, the group’s final product will be much more cohesive.

What is your favorite piece that you will be performing in “What If”? 

My favorite piece we’re performing is “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” from Carousel. This ensemble number is entertaining the entire way through, complete with various props and spoken lines. As a chorus member, you have the freedom to make choices within the character you’ve created for yourself. It’s a lot of fun reacting to what others say and do! Not to mention, the music makes you bop along.

What kind of music do you listen to for fun?

I like a lot of different genres! It really depends on my mood. I listen to opera and classical music pretty often, but I also like alternative/indie, nostalgic pop, and Japanese rock. I’ll give pretty much anything a chance.

Do you plan to continue singing in this genre in the future? 

I would love to sing opera professionally in the future. I feel most fulfilled being onstage and telling a story through powerful music. I can also see myself working behind the scenes in the administrative side of the arts industry.