Review: ‘Master Class’ at Reston Community Players

Maria Callas.
Maria Callas.

Maria Callas is an opera icon. If you have never heard of her, think of the ultimate diva and that will give you a bare bones idea of the incredible talent, intense personality, and enduring influence of the woman the opera world called, “La Divina.”

Master Class, currently being performed by the Reston Community Players, was written by Terrance McNally and is loosely based on Maria Callas’ time spent at Juliard holding a voice master class toward the end of her career. Callas criticizes her students on their “look” (or, rather, lack of look) and unpreparedness, while berating them with invaluable points, less on vocal technique and more on the substance and raw emotion necessary for a genuine performance.

The students’ individual characters are mostly irrelevant to the play and serve only to give a taste of Callas’ infamous temperament and impeccable dedication to music, and the classroom scenes merely act as a vehicle for Callas to reveal varied anecdotes of her suffering childhood into her tremendous career, which sends her into extensive flashbacks where she reenacts a series of dramatic moments in her life.

Directed by Rosemary Hartman, the piece has a good pace and the set design, by Lawrence Gresko, is fitting and natural. Ken and Patti Crowley’s lighting design does a fantastic job of guiding the audience through the transitions from the classroom into Callas’ recollections.

Lisa Anne Bailey plays Maria Callas and wonderfully embodies La Divina’s strong personality and confidence. The role is a monster of a part and carries the majority of the dialogue for the show but Bailey never falters in her command of the stage and does dialect coach, David Segal, proud with her consistent accent.

Lisa Anne Bailey as Maria Callas. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Photography.
Lisa Anne Bailey as Maria Callas. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Photography.

Bailey is engaging and her interactions with the students are at times hilarious. She perfectly captures Callas’ matter of fact confidence, which never quite turns into conceit. Callas’ respect and passion for music is inspiring, and Bailey is able to convey that it is the importance of this passion that Callas is trying to instill in her students. She is amazing in the role and commands the stage. It’s a tour de force performance.

Callas’ students, Sophie (Rosemarie S. Greger), Tony (Christopher Cosgrove), and Sharon (Molly Pinson Simoneau), beautifully perform arias from Bellini’s Sonnambula, Puccini’s Tosca, and Verdi’s Macbeth respectively. The voices of the three are beautiful and strong.  Simoneau, especially, has a gorgeous tone and there was a moment of awed silence after her final note, before the applause began.

The shows demanding vocals no doubt benefitted from the guidance of Opera Consultant, Adriana Hardy, and Vocal Consultant, David Rohde. The arias are the most definitely the highlight of the show.

Terrance McNally’s Master Class has fascinating content and Reston Community Players put on a magnificent show. Baily’s Callas and the vocal performances are reason enough to visit Reston Community Center to witness this impressive production.

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Master Class plays from January 15-30, 2016 at Reston Community Players performing at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, then press 3 for the 24-hour ticket ordering system, or purchase them online.

CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.

Meet the Cast, Director, and Producer of Reston Community Players’ ‘Master Class’: Part 1: Director Rosemary Hartman and Producer Kate Keifer.

Meet the Cast of Reston Community Players’ ‘Master Class’: Part 2: Lisa Anne Bailey.

Meet the Cast of Reston Community Players’ Master Class’: Part 3: David Rohde.

Meet the Cast of Reston Communty Players’ ‘Master Class’: Part 4: Molly Pinson.

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  1. While the arias were indeed impressive and beautiful, for me the highlight of the show was watching Lisa Anne Bailey wind her way through an extremely difficult script, literally and figuratively carrying the show. If not for her focused, nuanced portrayal of a very complicated character, the show would have fallen apart.

    • beautifully stated Kat, Lisa worked so hard for that role, learning and memorizing long pieces in Italian as well as English. We are all very proud of her and all of the cast for their dedication to a difficult undertaking!


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