One-act operas more than braids and helmets

UWOpera presents Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchiq

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Outside the music faculty, opera is an untapped realm, but anyone interested in spreading their cultural wings can appreciate UWOpera’s upcoming performances of Puccuni’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.

Suor Angelica tells the tragic tale of a young woman, Angelica, sent to live in a convent after giving birth out of wedlock. Several years later, the nun takes her own life after learning her estranged son has died.

Gianni Schicchi is a comedy about a family working together to forge a dead relative’s will after discovering they’ve left everything to a monastery.

Hilarity ensues when the family is left with nothing but what was in the original will.

Theodore Baerg, producer of Suor Angelica and director of Gianni Schicchi, says tremendous work has been put into these operas.

Over 50 performers are involved and the production includes a full orchestra accompaniment.

“We cast the opera in September and started working on the music shortly after,” Baerg says. “It’s a big undertaking for everyone involved.”

Natalie Teal, lead role in Suor Angelica and second-year master’s of performance and literature student, spent 20 to 30 hours a week working on the opera.

UWOpera students and faculty’s hard work has received recognition from the London Opera Guild and Rogers Television.

Contrary to popular belief, opera isn’t only for high society’s enjoyment. Unlike most operas, both Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi are one-act operas.

“Because it’s so short, it’s not so overwhelming,” Teal says.

English subtitles, which scroll across a screen above the stage, make it easier for the audience to follow the storyline. More commonly referred to as “surtitles” in the music community, translating lyrics into English is often used in opera.

Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, which first premiered in 1918, are fairly new compared to most operas.

Teal describes Puccini’s operas as “very approachable, a great look into that period of time.”

Baerg describes the music as “very beautiful, romantic and cinematic.”

The operas’ timelessness promises high entertainment value.

“They could be movies right now,” Baerg says. “We would go see them and they would win Academy Awards because they’re so funny and so tragic. They’re absolutely current.”

Performances run Feb. 9, 10, 16, 17 in Talbot College Theatre at 8 p.m. There is also a 2 p.m. performance Feb. 11. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students. Tickets can be purchased at 519-679-8778.

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