Lawrence takes “The Beggar’s Opera” to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Lawrence University Opera makes its Fox Cities Performing Arts Center debut Feb. 25-28 with four performances of John Gay’s revolutionary “The Beggar’s Opera” in the Kimberly-Clark Theater.

Performances Thursday, Feb. 25- Saturday Feb. 27 begin at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance on Sunday, Feb. 28 begins at 3 p.m. Tickets, at $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students, are available at the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749 or the PAC Box Office, 920-730-3760.

Elena Stabile as Polly Peachum and Mitchell Kasprzyk as Captain Macheath perform in Lawrence’s production of “The Beggar’s Opera.”

Written by Gay as an English counter-response to 18th-century Italian opera, “The Beggar’s Opera” challenges conventional ideas of criminal and governing factions, of love and necessity. The revolutionary opera changed theatre for the next two centuries, introducing the use of popular songs and ballads of the time in a biting satire on English government and society.

At the time, men called thief-takers received stolen goods from thieves and returned them to their rightful owners for a fee. Knowing the names and crimes of each thief they dealt with, the thief-takers could, if not provided enough bounty, turn him over to the authorities for a 40 £ reward. The authorities profitably cooperated with thief-takers in this corrupt system.

“John Gay and his fellow satirists observed and railed against the corruption in the magistrates and elected officials,” said Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies and stage director of the production. “‘The Beggar’s Opera’ is rife with these antitheses, pointing out that Lords are no more upstanding that the Highwaymen.”

The opera follows the tale of Peachum, thief-taker and informer, who conspires to send dashing and promiscuous highwayman Macheath to the gallows after Macheath has secretly married Peachum’s daughter, Polly. The result is a tale of chase and escape, of thieves and prostitutes, of love and loss, all told by the Beggar, who insists that the performance be viewed like all other fashionable operas of the time. In reality, of course, “The Beggar’s Opera” deliberately breaks away from the form of any opera before it.

Woodruff credited his experience working with the PAC last fall on his special “Expressions of Acceptance” micro-operas event for the location change from Lawrence’s Stansbury Theatre to the downtown venue.Beggar's-Opera_newsblog-4

“After planning the micro-operas there and meeting and working with the wonderful, generous team at the PAC, it seemed a perfect fit for this opera,” said Woodruff. “The Kimberly-Clark Theater has a very intimate feeling and the audience will be feet away from performers in a piece that is of the people and by the people.”

Guest conductor Hal France directs the orchestra, while Bonnie Koestner serves as music director and vocal coach. Choreography was designed by Margaret Paek and fight choreography by J. Christopher Carter. Michael J. Barnes served as the production’s accent coach.

In the double-cast production, sophomores Ian Grimshaw and John Perkins share the role of Mr. Peachum. Senior Elena Stabile and junior Lizzie Burmeister portray Polly Peachum, while seniors Mitchell Kasprzyk and David Pecsi portray Captain Macheath. seniors Kelsey Wang and Katie Mueller share the role of Lucy Lockit.

In addition to live music played my members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra during the opera, Holy Sheboygan!, a local band of Lawrence alumni, will play a pre-opera concert beginning 30 minutes before the start of each day’s performance as well as during two 10-minute intermissions.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.