(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Two sheepherders fall deeply in love ... two couples reveal personal longings while playing a friendly game of bridge ... a chambermaid seduces her master into marriage—could these scenarios come from some bizarre late night cable TV show?
Perhaps, but in this instance we’re referring to three one-act operas to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 27-28, all by the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Opera Theater on the mainstage at the theater in SIUE’s Katherine Dunham Hall. The works to be performed are Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, A Hand of Bridge by Samuel Barber and Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona. “There is something for everyone in this evening of music and drama,” says SIUE Opera Theater Director Marc Schapman. “These three works will provide an evening of hilarity in addition to wonderful music.”
Schapman, who is an assistant professor of music at SIUE, also points out that the casts include very talented current vocal performance majors from the SIUE Department of Music, as well as guest performers and former Opera Theater alumni Joe Drexelius and Katrina Bradley. “The evening will showcase our finest talents in the vocal area of the department as well as our very talented orchestral musicians,” Schapman said. “We are very proud to feature our alums Katrina and Joe, but all the cast members have worked extremely hard and I am proud of their efforts, too.”
As for the story lines, Schapman said love and laughter and drama play a big part in these three masterpieces. In the Mozart, Bastienne pines for her sweetheart Bastien who has left for the city. “As Bastienne has been tending her sheep, Bastien is seduced by the big city and a wealthy lady,” the director explains. “When Bastien returns, Bastienne plays hard-to-get and the young man contemplates suicide. The two sheepherders eventually put aside pretense and profess their mutual love for each other.”
Barber wrote A Hand of Bridge in 1959 with a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti. “It's one of the shortest operas regularly performed,” Schapman said. “It consists of two couples playing bridge with each character performing an arietta, or short monologue,” he said. The soprano admits disdain for her mother who now lays dying; the contralto recalls a hat she saw in a shop window earlier that day; the tenor recalls an ex-lover and wonders where she is now, and the baritone fantasizes about what he would do if he were wealthy.
Finally, La Serva Padrona focuses on Zerbina, the chambermaid, who deceives her master, Dr. Pandolfo, into marriage. “The story combines pantomime, music and comedy,” Schapman points out.
The director said the students are enjoying the experience. “Senior vocal performance major Matthew Newlin, who is portraying Bastien, is excellent in the part and is a good example of the kind of talent we have here at SIUE,” Schapman said. Newlin explains that the Opera Theater experience at SIUE allows students to refine skills as “singing actors,” both practically in performance and “intellectually” through character preparation and a term paper, which is part of the project. “Bastien und Bastienne is shaping up to be a light, charming opera in which we can see the development of Mozart’s ultimate operatic writing style,” Newlin said.
“He was, after all, only 12 when he wrote it.”
Graduate student LaVell Thompson Jr. said his part in the Barber has been a great learning experience. “As we (the cast) have been spending time with the opera, the characters are truly beginning to come to life.”
Opera Theater pianist Dolly Hsu said this is her first time playing piano for three entire operas in one evening. “These three light operas, in the form of operetta ranging from 18th century intermezzi to 20th century chamber opera, present human affectations in many different ways.”
Tickets are $5; senior citizens, $3; SIUE students are free with a valid SIUE ID. For more information, call the Fine Arts box office, (618) 650-2774. Also, visit the SIUE Opera Theater Web site: www.siue.edu/artsandsciences/music/opera for information.