Tag: opera

New Lawrence opera director makes debut with Copland’s “The Tender Land”

American composer Aaron Copland‘s classic folk opera “The Tender Land” comes to the stage of Stansbury Theatre Feb. 19-22 in a collaborative production of Lawrence University’s theatre, music and opera studies programs.

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Junior Mitchell Kasprzyk (left) portrays the drifter Top and senior Stephanie Popik portrays Laurie Moss in Lawrence’s production of Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land.” Photo by Nathan B. Lawrence

Curtain times for performances Feb. 19-20-21 are 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday, Feb. 22 matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets, at $15 for adults and $8 for seniors and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749. The three-act performance runs approximately two hours with no intermission.

Well known for its soaring melodies, “The Tender Land” brings the Depression-era American Midwest to life. With Copland’s music and a libretto written by his romantic partner Erik Johns under the pseudonym Horace Everett, the story explores themes of the stranger among us and the stranger within. Under Copland’s sweeping, yet intimate score, characters dance between their own inner and outer worlds.

The story is told through the eyes of Laurie Moss, the eldest daughter of a Dust Bowl-era 1930s farming family, who feels unconnected to both her family and community. The arrival of two drifters turns Laurie’s thoughts to the freedom of the road and its possibilities. Smitten with one drifter, she plans to leave home with him, only to have him depart without her. Laurie soon realizes it was the dream of abandoning the farm and starting life on her own terms with which she was really in love, not the drifter.

The production is the Lawrence debut of award-winning opera director Copeland Woodruff, who was appointed the college’s first director of opera studies last spring. He joined the faculty in September. In November, Woodruff earned first-place honors in the prestigious National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production Competition for the fifth time in the past eight years. He was recognized for his 2014 production of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” with University of Memphis Opera.

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Copeland Woodruff

Working with his team of set, lighting and costume designers, Woodruff said of the production “we’ve tried to create a world that allows a framework of the Midwestern farm, but leaves room for magical realism.”

The set incorporates the use of a large, opaque, translucent quilt, which serves as a surface for projections. Other elements of the set are skeletal/suggestive that function in different ways, including as projection surfaces.

“The use of the set and projections to create an interior life for the characters will help support the feelings of freedom that live nascent in Laurie: moments when she is alone, when she is feeling connected, and the final moments before her departure from this community.”

The opera will be performed with a split cast, with seniors Graycie Gardner and Stephanie Popik sharing the roles of Laurie Moss.  Seniors Kirsten O’Donnell and Melina Jaharis sing the role of Ma Moss, while junior Charlie Aldrich and 2010 Lawrence graduate Justin Berkowitz portray drifter Martin, Laurie’s love interest.

Dirk Durossette served as the production’s scenic designer. Barry Steele designed the lighting and projection while Karin Kopischke was the show’s costume designer.

The orchestra will be led by guest conductor Katherine Kilburn with music direction by associate professor of music Bonnie Koestner.

Prior to each performance, several area agencies who deal with marginalized and disenfranchised members of the Appleton and Lawrence communities will staff tables in the lobby of the Music-Drama Center to interacting with audience member as a way of setting a tone of how the stranger among us is perceived.

Following each performance, there will be a talk-back sessions led by representatives of Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities with the audience to facilitate discussions on moving from an “us-them” paradigm to a more inclusive “us” mentality.

“We hope to open up Lawrence’s doors to community members who well may have never been on our campus,” said Woodruff.

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 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” 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.

 

Opera Director Copeland Woodruff Wins National “Best Production” Award

A preview of things to come?

While Copeland Woodruf, Lawrence University’s new director of opera studies, has yet to stage his first production here, he’s still garnering national recognition from his previous appointment as co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis.

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Copeland Woodruff

For the fifth time in the past eight years, Woodruff, who began his first year at Lawrence this fall, has earned first-place honors in the prestigious National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production Competition, Division V for 2013-14. He was recognized for his production of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” with University of Memphis Opera.

“With this award, Copeland once again shows he is an opera director of the first order,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “We are so excited to have him at Lawrence. Although he is just finishing up his very first term, his creative talents, artistic vision, and passion for teaching are already making a big impact on our students.”

The NOA’s annual competition encourages and rewards creative, high-quality productions in small professional opera companies and opera training programs, including academic institutions and music conservatories.

Other recent competition winners in Division 5 include some of the country’s premier music programs, including the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Temple University, University of Houston and the University of North Texas.

Copeland, who had directed more than 90 opera productions in his career, spent six years at the University of Memphis, where he won three of his five best opera production awards. In addition to this year’s, he previously was honored for his Memphis productions of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” (2008) and Mozart’s “Idomeneo” (2011).

He also was cited by the National Opera Association for his American collegiate premiere of Jacques Offenbach’s “Les contes d’Hoffmann” (2006) with Temple University Opera and the controversial American premiere of Obermueller & Gilbert’s “Dreimaldrei gleich unendlich” (2010) in the professional division with the Boston-based opera company Juventas New Music Ensemble.

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance. He also earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

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 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” 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.

 

Multimillion Dollar Gifts Enable Lawrence University to Establish Two New Endowed Professorships

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Amy Abugo Ongiri

Deep-seated appreciation for film and opera has led a pair of Lawrence University alumni and an anonymous donor to establish new endowed professorships at the college. Lawrence requires a minimum of $2.5 million to establish an endowed professorship.

Tom Hurvis, and his wife, Julie, 1960 and 1961 Lawrence graduates, respectively, and the Caerus Foundation, Inc., have established the Jill Beck Professorship in Film Studies in recognition of Lawrence’s 15th president, her service to Lawrence, their love of film and their conviction that student participation in film studies has an important role in a liberal arts education.

In 2011, a $5 million gift from the Hurvises enabled Lawrence to establish the Hurvis Center for Interdisciplinary Film Studies, a facility dedicated to the integration of film production into the Lawrence curriculum.

Motivated by a desire to encourage participation in music and arts at Lawrence, an anonymous donor made a gift to enhance the college’s capacity to provide learning and performance opportunities for students in opera studies while increasing multifaceted collaboration within the curriculum by establishing the endowed director of opera studies position. The Lawrence conservatory, with the support of the theatre arts department, has annually staged an opera production since 1961.

In conjunction with the newly created professorships, Lawrence President Mark Burstein announced the appointment of Amy Abugo Ongiri, currently an associate professor of English at the University of Florida, as the Jill Beck Professor and Director of Film Studies and J. Copeland Woodruff, assistant professor and co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis, as Director of Opera Studies.

Both Ongri and Woodruff join the faculty with the rank of associate professor. Ongiri’s appointment includes tenure.

“One of the many strengths that a Lawrence education develops is the ability to link a student’s own talent and creativity with performance and presentation, a skill one needs to succeed in the world today,” said Burstein in announcing the appointments. “The addition of Amy Abugo Ongiri and J. Copeland Woodruff significantly enhances our capability in this area both for students interested in film studies and in the conservatory and also in the larger Lawrence student body.

“I want to thank Julie and Tom Hurvis and anonymous members of the Lawrence community for making these two important appointments to our faculty possible,” Burstein added.

Award-winning Educator

Ongiri joined the University of Florida faculty in 2003 after four years at the University of California-Riverside. In 2006, she was recognized with both UF’s Teacher  of the Year Award and  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award.

Her scholarship interests focus on African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of nearly 20 published journal articles, three dozen conference papers and the 2009 book, “Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.” She spent 2005 in Dakar, Senegal on a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in African film.

She is a member of the editorial board of the journals American Literature and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies and serves as a reviewer for the Journal  of African American History and the Journal of American History.

At Florida, Ongiri has taught courses ranging from the history of film and African cinema in a world cinema context to an introduction to Asian American film and video.

Ongiri earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Amy Ongiri as the first director of film studies,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German, chair of Lawrence’s film studies program and a member of the search committee. “She is an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher; someone who is there for every last one of her students at a large public university. She will be a terrific asset for Lawrence students. She is also exactly the right person to put together an expanded curriculum for film studies and to shape the program in film making.”

“Amazingly Creative, Innovative”

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J. Copeland Woodruff

Woodruff has taught at the University of Memphis since 2008. He previously has held teaching appointments at The Julliard School, Oberlin College, Temple and Yale universities as well as the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and Germany’s Universität Bamberg. He also has served as a guest instructor with La Musica Lirica in Italy, the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Brazil and at Bejing University.

He has directed more than 90 opera productions, including the 2013 world premiere of “Raise the Red Lantern” at the Tianqiao Theatre in Bejing, one of three productions in China he has directed. Since 2006, Woodruff has earned four first-place National Opera Association Best Opera Production Awards and was recognized in 2013 with the University of Memphis’ Dean’s Creative Achievement Award.

Woodruff has enjoyed an extended relationship with Boston’s Guerilla Opera, serving as stage director of a new production of “Heart of a Dog” and earning Second Prize in the 2012 American Prize in Opera Performance competition, professional division.

“It is with great excitement that we welcome Copeland Woodruff to Lawrence,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “Besides being an amazingly creative, innovative and well-respected opera director and educator, he is also passionate about  the liberal arts and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In short, he will absolutely flourish at Lawrence. We are entering an exciting new era for opera studies at Lawrence and I can’t wait to see how all the possibilities unfold.”

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance and also completed extensive master’s level coursework in theatrical design. He earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

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.

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.