October 26, 2007

Opera takes center stage for two weekends at SIUC

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Go on, take a chance. The School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale hosts not one but two weekends celebrating the original music instrument, the voice. For those who think they don't like opera or need a screaming guitar behind that aria, this is the perfect opportunity to try something new. For those who have a taste for music theater already, a very nice pair of weekends are lined up for your enjoyment.

During the first weekend, Soprano Emily Pulley and baritone Curt Olds, both visiting artists, perform opera, musical theater arias and duets beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall. Tickets are $15. SIUC students with proper student ID may attend this Fine Arts Fee-supported event free. Tickets are $7.50 for other students.

Pulley is almost a regular at New York City's famed Metropolitan Opera, where she has performed in such productions as "Faust," "I Pagliacci," "Hänsel und Gretel" and "The Rake's Progress." A native Texan, Pulley's other performance venues include the New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, Glimmerglass Opera festival, Seattle Opera, Opera Colorado and Central City Opera. She has played roles in such productions as "Eugene Onegin," "Le nozze di Figaro," "Così fan tutte," and "Die Fledermaus," and such new roles as Lysia in the world premiere of "Lysistrata." More recently, Pulley was Marguerite in "Faust," Madame Lidoine in "Dialogues of the Carmelites," and Love Simpson in "Cold Sassy Tree." Among her array of awards is a 2000 ARIA award.

Olds is most famous as Koko in "The Mikado," the popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. He has performed in "Mikado" at least 13 times. He also lists roles in such varied productions as "A Little Night Music," "Cats," "Riverdance," "Kiss Me, Kate," and "Sweeney Todd." He performs regularly with several companies, including Arizona Opera, Opera Delaware, Hawaii Opera Theatre and The National Savoyards. At home with both opera and musical theater, Olds' career includes performances with Broadway Pops, Boston's Symphony Pro Musica and the Omaha Symphony.

The following weekend, the SIUC Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theater shines with Timothy J. Fink directing and Edward M. Benyas conducting two evenings of Puccini opera – the tragic "Suor Angelica," and the comic "Gianni Schicchi." Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 and Nov. 10. Tickets are $19, $6 for students of any age. Both operas are performed both nights.

"Suor Angelica" is the story of a young nun from an aristocratic family who is forced into a convent to repent a past indiscretion. SIUC graduate student Emily Fons is in the title role, and will sing in Italian. Super-titles in English projected near the stage help the audience keep up with the story. Fons is a recent graduate of Luther College in Iowa, where she won the Brudos Prize in opera performance. She has performances in "Gianni Schicchi," "The Telephone," "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Hänsel and Gretel" to her credit already. SIUC opera alumna Karen Clayton joins her in "Suor Angelica."

"Gianni Schicchi" tells the story of a greedy family vying for a dead uncle's wealth. School of Music Assistant Professor of Voice David Dillard, a baritone, performs the title role and will sing in English with English super-titles. Guest director is David Schneider, a graduate student in the Department of Theater. Guest conductor is Yehun Kim, a graduate student of conducting in the School of Music. Another new face involved with the production is assistant professor Paul Transue, who served as vocal coach and accompanist for both productions. The role of the dead uncle, incidentally, was sold at silent auction – a Carbondale community member will fill the spot.

Junior high and high school students may attend a free preview performance of "Gianni Schicchi" at 1 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Shryock Auditorium. To make a group reservation, call 618/923-2314.

Tickets for the Puccini operas at Shryock Auditorium are available in advance at SIU ticket offices at the SIU Arena or the SIUC Student Center. Tickets are also on sale at Shryock Auditorium beginning one hour before the performance. Tickets may be ordered from Ticketmaster at 866/646-8849 or online at www.ticketmaster.com/shryock.