Bonnie Koestner

Tag: Bonnie Koestner

Baroque Opera “The Fairy Queen” Gets “Hippie” Update in Lawrence University Production

Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s opera “The Fairy Queen” receives a modern adaptation in Lawrence University’s production of the fantastical tale of romance and magic. The opera will be performed March 1-3 at 8 p.m. and March 4 at 3 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center.

Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Originally written as a “masque” — light entertainment featuring lavish costumes and scenery but nearly devoid of narrative — the opera was inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  The story follows four young lovers’ escape to an enchanted forest.

The updated adaptation, written by Professor of Theatre Arts Timothy X. Troy ’85, who also serves as the production’s director, replaces the anonymously written libretto with Shakespeare’s own words.

“I restored the actors’ text to the First Folio version before shaping a narrative that closely followed the story of the young lovers who are tricked in the forest by Puck, the most famous of all fairies,” said Troy.

His adaptation was inspired by the psychedelic cover art of fairies on an LP of English composer Benjamin Britten’s 1973 recording of “The Fairy Queen.” It transports the action to a hippie commune in the woods outside Athens, Ga., immediately after a tornado. The new and modern setting offered creative opportunities for the production team.

Costume designer Karin Kopischke ’80 playfully explores the eclectic fashions of hippie culture of the commune-dwelling fairies against the academic preppy and jockish culture of the quartet of young lovers and their pursuit of true love.

“Karin’s costumes are inspiring, lively and delightful,” said Troy. “She found ways to model the repurposing impulse of the period to create a delightful sense of surprise and individuality to each of the 60 costumes you see on stage.”

Rebecca Salzer, Lawrence Fellow in Dance who served as choreographer for the production, worked closely with a corps of six dancers to blend Purcell’s set dance pieces with popular dance forms from the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

“To support Tim’s melding of times and places in this production — Baroque music, Elizabethan theatre and a 1970’s American setting — the choreography also had to be a mix of styles,” said Salzer. “If you look closely, you’ll see movement inspired by 60’s mods, 70’s funk and even the occasional minuet.”

Because Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen” is considered a “semi-opera” — an amalgam of scenes from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and musical interludes — it presented special challenges and opportunities for Bonnie Koestner, associate professor of music, who served as the production’s vocal coach.

“The masque portions (musical interludes) reflect the mood and general spirit of the spoken scenes, but are not directly tied to a plot line,” said Koestner. “It’s somewhat like the difference between a musical revue with its diverse collection of numbers and a Broadway show like ‘Carousel,’ in which the music really does play a part in character development. Both Shakespeare and Purcell have given us works of genius and if the audience doesn’t worry about the lack of a single coherent plot, I think that they will find it very entertaining.”

Featuring some of the most famous music of the Baroque period with virtuosic arias and complex ensembles and choruses, “The Fairy Queen” offers its audience a stunning variety of vocal talent alongside innovative choreography and compelling acting.

“It’s a delight to integrate the talents of our strongest actors with those of our accomplished singers,” said Troy.

About Lawrence University

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries.

Classic Czech Opera “The Bartered Bride” Comes to Stansbury Theatre

Four performances of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s classic opera “The Bartered Bride” will be staged Feb. 17-20 at Lawrence University.   The comedic tale of match making and marriage will be performed Feb. 17-19 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center.

Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Set in a 19th-century Bohemian village, the opera follows the relationship between Mařenka and Jenik. The two are in love, but Mařenka’s father owes a debt to Micha, a wealthy, older man. Micha wants Mařenka to marry his son, Vašek, and he’s coming to town to seal the deal.

“Smetana and librettist Karel Sabina teamed together to craft a romantic comedy filled with plot twists and sibling rivalry,” said Timothy X. Troy, professor of theatre arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama, who is directing the production. “The story reveals that unflappable loyalty and cleverness can overcome even the most intractable adversity. Mařenka’s inner strength and patience prove the perfect complement to Jenik’s quiet but confident ability to trick his superiors into giving the young couple exactly what they want and deserve.”

The second opera written by Smetana, “The Bartered Bride” premiered in 1866. By the mid-1870s, it was arguably the most popular Czech opera of all time — and many would say it still is. Smetana’s operas established him as a founding father of Czech classical music and this brilliant comedy has become a standard in opera houses around the world.

Smetana’s music is rooted in the traditions of Czech folk music, though the appeal of his melodies is universal,” said Bonnie Koestner, associate professor of music and vocal coach for the production. “We will be performing ‘The Bartered Bride’ in an English translation, so that our audience can directly enjoy the wit and emotion of the opera.”

The production also features a lively dance section in each of its three acts.  The dances are choreographed by Monica Rodero, a member of the Milwaukee-based Wild Space Dance Company, which has an artist-in-residency agreement with Lawrence.

“Monica’s setting of the polka in the first act and a furiant in the second act makes a delight for the eye as well as the ear,” said Troy.

The production features a double cast of 50 performers.  Junior Julia Steiner (Thur./Sat.) and senior Cassie Glasser (Fri./Sun.) portray Mařenka while seniors Nik Ross (Thurs./Sat.) and Justin Berkowitz (Fri./Sun.) play Jeník.  Vašek is portrayed by seniors Pat MacDevitt (Thurs./Sun.) and Alex Gmeinder (Fri./Sun.).

Professor of Music David Becker conducts the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra for the performances.