Tag: opera

Conservatory, Theatre Arts Dept. Presents Kurt Weill’s American Opera “Street Scene”

Just weeks after a staging of Elmer Rice’s play version of “Street Scene,” a day-long snapshot of life in a “mean” quarter of New York City, the Lawrence University Conservatory presents the opera of the same story with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by poet Langston Hughes.

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Seniors Jon Stombres (left) portrays Sam Kaplan, a poetic Jewish neighbor of the Maurrants, Lauren Koeritzer (center) plays Jennie Hildebrand, a teenage daughter of a single mother, Michael Uselmann (red shirt) plays Daniel Buchanan, a nervous neighbor waiting for his pregnant wife to go into labor, and Daniel Vinitsky (seated right) portrays Harry Easter, Rose Maurrant’s sleazy boss, in Kurt Weill’s opera “Street Scene.”

Performances in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center will be at 7:30 p.m. March 6-7-8 and with a 3 p.m. matinee performance Sunday, March 9. Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for seniors/students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Assistant Professor of Music History Erica Scheinberg will provide a brief introduction to Weill and “Street Scene” beginning at 6:45 p.m. prior to each performance.

SEE A REVIEW OF THE OPERA

Premiering in 1947, the opera was Weill’s embrace of the American musical style, combining opera, popular song, Broadway and jazz.

“Having fled Nazi Germany, his goal was to create a new kind of opera that reflected the diversity of his adopted country,” said Bonnie Koestner, vocal coach of the production.

The opera’s diversity is also reflected in the double-cast production that features 60 actors onstage, accompanied by the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Octavio Más-Arocas.

“Our audience will be astonished by the depth of talent in both casts and will immediately connect with Weill’s rich and tuneful score,” Koestner added.

Like the play, the opera, follows the Maurrant family — Anna, unhappily married to the brutish stagehand Frank, and their two children, Rose and Willie — and their neighbors through an exceptionally hot 24-hour period in the summer of 1929. Anna, who is having an affair with Sankey, the neighborhood milkman, is the subject of much gossip among the others living in the brownstone where the entire production is set, while Rose navigates a romance with her Jewish neighbor Sam Kaplan.

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Senior Graycie Gardner portrays Rose Maurrant, a young woman navigating a romance with her Jewish neighbor, in Lawrence’s production of the opera “Street Scene.”

Professor Timothy X. Troy, who is directing the opera, noted the uniqueness of presenting back-to-back productions based on the same story.

“Producing both works allows us and our audiences to explore the whole process of adaptation,” he said. “Rice, Langston Hughes and Weill joined their efforts to reimagine the play as an opera. They chose core themes, explored relationships, and developed the context of the play’s action supported with orchestra and song. We hope our audience’s will take advantage of this truly unique opportunity. Anyone who attended the play first, now seeing the opera will provide the unusual experience of thinking like the composer and librettist.”

The performance is funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, N.Y.

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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and 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 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence University Presents Benjamin Britten’s Comic Opera “Albert Herring”

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, Lawrence University brings the great British composer’s hilarious coming-of-age comic opera “Albert Herring” to the stage Feb. 14-17.

Performances in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.  Feb. 14-16 with a 3 p.m. matinee performance Sunday, Feb. 17.  Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Originally set in 1900, guest director/choreographer Nicola Bowie transports the production to 1947, the year Britten wrote the opera.

“It is a period that resonated with me, and I believe further serves to accentuate the characters, making them more relevant to an audience in 2013,” said Bowie, an accomplished director who has staged operas with the New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Washington Opera, among others.  “It proved to be a perfect fit, emphasizing that life in many rural areas of Britain and probably elsewhere has changed very little over the last few hundred years.”

Intricate and Witty

Pairing an intricate but “listenable” score with a witty libretto, “Albert Herring” parodies life in a rural British village, poking fun at puffed-up politicians, flighty school teachers, vapid vicars, bumbling police officers and an assortment of other eccentrics. But his treatment of shy young Albert’s coming of age has an underpinning of sensitivity and genuine emotion.

When the village committee fails to find a local girl virtuous enough to be crowned queen of its May Day festival, Albert, a virginal “mama’s boy,” is crowned May King instead. Unhappy with his prudish reputation and with the help of with the help of a little spiked lemonade, Albert breaks away from his mother’s domination and the suppressive morals of his elders for a night of debauchery and adventure.

While comic in tone, the opera is as musically complex as any the more serious works penned by Britten, named the most frequently performed opera composer born in the 20th century by Opera America.

“’Albert Herring’ is a wonderful learning experience for our students because it features a large cast of characters, each of whom has significant musical, dramatic and vocal challenges,” said Bonnie Koestner, associate professor of music at Lawrence and vocal coach for the production. “With its theme of a young man’s awkward journey to manhood and independence, it is an ideal dramatic subject for college students.  This opera is a major undertaking for undergraduates, but our students have risen to the challenge admirably and are prepared to give our audience a very entertaining evening of musical theatre.”

The double-cast production features junior Ian Koziara and senior Issa Ransom as the titular character. Junior Zoie Reams and sophomore Elizabeth Vaughan play Albert’s overbearing mother. Senior Cayla Rosche and junior Gabriella Guilfoil play Lady Billows, an elderly autocrat, while senior Susan Borkowski and junior Graycie Gardner play Florence, Lady Billows’ companion.

Octavio Mas-Arocas conducts a 13-piece orchestra. Karin Kopischke served as the production’s costume designer and Steve Barnes designed the set. Dave Owens served as technical director while 2004 Lawrence graduate and New York City-based consultant Aaron Sherkow served as the production’s guest lighting designer.

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 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and 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 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

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.

Bernstein Classic “Candide” Makes Lawrence University Debut

Leonard’s Bernstein’s popular operetta “Candide” will be performed March 4-7 at Lawrence University for the first time.

Based on Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novel of the same name, “Candide” will be staged March 4-6 at 8 p.m. and March 7 at 3 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre, 420 E. College Ave. Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Like Voltaire’s novella, Bernstein’s operetta is a bitter critique of optimism and the idea that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” The story follows Candide, the young illegitimate cousin of a noble family who grows up in a castle. He learns from his mentor, Pangloss, that everything in life happens for a reason and all is for the best.

But Candide’s ideas of optimism are painfully tempered by life’s hardships: his love, Cunegonde, is killed in an attack by the Bulgarian army; he sees the population of Lisbon wiped out by an earthquake; and Pangloss is hanged for heresy. Ultimately, Candide realizes “we must cultivate our garden” and make the best of what we are given in life.

“‘Candide’ is a show that has perennial appeal,” said Bonnie Koestner, associate professor of music and vocal coach for the production. “Leonard Bernstein has created a happy marriage between Broadway and opera. His score bubbles with fun and frivolity, yet the piece deals with some of life’s most serious questions, all wrapped up in a non-stop adventure story.”

Ben Krywosz, artistic director of Nautilus Music-Theater in St. Paul, Minn., is serving as guest stage director for the production. He is confident audiences will be surprised at how both funny and moving “Candide” can be.

“For all his musical sophistication, Bernstein was a populist at heart,” said Krywosz. “Both those qualities are evident in ‘Candide,’ wonderful toe-tapping tunes combined with a sumptuous operatic sweep.

“We’re taking a slightly unusual approach with this production, which is already a wild and crazy story,” Krywocz added. “The student performers have all been enthusiastic partners in bringing this score to life.”

First performed in 1956, Bernstein’s “Candide” presents a challenge to directors and performers, because it has been published in so many different forms, including a one-act Broadway revival and later a two-act “opera house version” first performed in New York City in 1982. Lawrence’s production will be an updated version by Krywosz in which the main characters address the audience directly, explaining Voltaire’s intentions and relating his ideas to modern life and current events as the plot unfolds.

The production features a double cast of 40 performers. Seniors Alex Gmeinder (Thursday-Saturday) and Justin Berkowitz (Friday-Sunday) portray the title role while seniors Lara Wasserman (Thursday-Saturday) and Taylor Jacobson (Friday-Sunday) play Candide’s love interest, Cunegonde. Pangloss is portrayed by senior Derrell Acon (Thursday-Saturday) and sophomore Brian Acker (Friday-Sunday).

Professor of Music David Becker will conduct the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra for the performances. Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Richmond Frielund served as set designer for the production.

Lawrence University Opera Theatre Presents Mozart’s Classic “The Magic Flute”

Lawrence University joins in the world-wide celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with three performances of the composer’s ever-popular opera classic “The Magic Flute.”

The opera will be staged Thursday and Friday Feb. 16-17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Feb. 19 at 3 p.m in Stansbury Theatre of the Lawrence Music-Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave. Tickets, at $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, can be purchased through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

The last of 20 operas written by Mozart — it premiered in Vienna on September 30, 1791, less than three months before he died — “The Magic Flute” is built around the simple but timeless plot themes of man’s search for true love and the fundamental desire to help good triumph over evil. It is considered by some the most fanciful and wide-ranging of the composer’s operatic works, exploring numerous musical styles and theatrical devices.

“Mozart and the German librettist Emanuel Schikeneder used story lines and images from Masonic rites as their source material for this opera,” said Timothy Troy, the J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatrea and Drama who will direct the production. “Those elements give the opera a sense of mystery and good-natured melodrama.”

The production will feature a combination of large, three-dimensional sculpture and projected images of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia and Celtic Ireland. The set is designed to create the mysterious world the two main characters, Tamino, a handsome Egyptian prince, and Pamina, the daughter of Astrifiammante, the wicked Queen of the Night, navigate their way through before eventually marrying.

The opera’s title comes from the flute Tamino is given that enables him to sound an alarm and summon help in time of peril during his efforts to rescue Pamina.

David Becker, director of orchestral studies at Lawrence who will serve as conductor for the production, says it is the deft blending of so many different elements that makes this particular opera special.

“The unusual exploration of almost slapstick comedy along side of humanitarian symbolism relating to his affiliation with Freemasonary, along with use of Austrian folk song, Italian vocal display, German ‘singspiel,’ the revival of Baroque contrapuntal style and the masterful combination of his magical music with the libretto makes ‘The Magic Flute’ not only one of Mozart’s greatest operatic creations but arguably one of the greatest of all German operas,” said Becker.

What “The Magic Flute” lacks in terms of a subtle story line, is more than made up by the music according to Troy.

“In the play “Amadeus,” Antonio Salieri remarks that you can hear the voice of God in Mozart’s music,” said Troy. “That statement is especially true in this opera.”

In addition to the stage and musical direction of Troy and Becker, the production features a set designed by Rich Frielund, associate professor of theatre arts and vocal coaching by Bonnie Koestner, assistant professor of music. The production also will include the contributions of two guest artists: Milwaukee area lighting designer Jason Fassl and costume designer Emily Rohm-Gilmore, ’02, of Naperville, Ill.

Tenor Steve Spears, assistant professor of music, will sing the romantic male lead role of Tamino, while sophomore Emily Fink of Neenah (Thursday) and senior Caitlin Cisler of Appleton (Friday, Sunday) will share the female lead role of Pamina.