Video: Director and editor Ned Brown; cinematographers Catherine Seraphine, Joe Sherman, Kai-Jae Wang/Harvard Staff

Campus & Community

Behind the art

2 min read

Backstage with the Lowell House Opera at Harvard

Every spring, the Lowell House dining hall, with its ornate chandeliers and checkered floors, undergoes a period of dramatic transformation, familiar to regulars yet practically undetectable to the outside world. Diners are quietly asked to finish their meals, tables and chairs are hauled away, and the room is swiftly reborn as a fully staged theater.

This is the home of the Lowell House Opera, the longest continuously performing opera company in New England, in operation since 1938. The dining hall metamorphosis is one of many details that students manage in order to put on conservatory-level performances, like this year’s production of Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne Auf Naxos.”

“We are producers, publicists, fundraisers, organizers, make-up artists, stage managers,” said producer Steven Kunis ’17, speaking on behalf of his fellow students. “I would say about 90 percent of the art you see is happening behind the scenes.”

Organized by an all-volunteer group of students, community members, and trained artists, the opera offers undergrads the opportunity to learn on the job while rubbing shoulders with seasoned professionals. The outcome is a spectacular and intimate annual performance, in the very room that hosted breakfast, lunch, and dinner for students earlier in the day.