A Night at the Opera
UWEC production goes all out with Strauss classic
The music and theater department at UW-Eau Claire is a multi-faceted universe. Students are expected to be well-versed in the classical repertoire of their respective instruments, but many go above and beyond this requirement by immersing themselves in the jazz studies program, performing contemporary vocal music at the annual Cabaret, or participating in a full-scale opera.
Operas are somewhat of a special event throughout the music department. Productions revolve around a biannual schedule, so many students only have the opportunity to perform twice, or maybe three times at the most. Preparation is also unusually vast and rigorous: Gantner Concert Hall has been closed for construction since the beginning of the semester while the stage crew builds the set, and the vocalists have had a demanding rehearsal schedule. However great the sacrifice, the end result is always a spectacle to behold. I went to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2011, and I was blown away by the intricacy of the set and costumes, not to mention the musical talent of the performers.
“This is a work of art that the community had a direct hand in. I think people interested in sustainability will be curious to see how we’ve done it in this production.” – director Mitra Sadeghpour on Die Fledermaus’ recycled costumes
This year, the department is taking on Die Fledermaus, the most well-known opera by Austrian composer Johann Strauss II. Remaining in the same vein as The Magic Flute, Die Fledermaus – in English, The Bat – is a light-hearted comedic opera that centers around the antics of Gabriel von Eisenstein, his wife Rosalinde, and their maid Adele. People already familiar with UW-Eau Claire’s annual Viennese Ball will enjoy Die Fledermaus; much of the opera takes place at a similar kind of ball, and the university orchestra has played selections from Die Fledermaus at the Viennese Ball in years past.
For director Mitra Sadeghpour, Die Fledermaus is the perfect fit for this year’s theater season, as well as the vocal ranges of the pool of cast members. “Die Fledermaus is something that I have wanted to do for awhile,” Sadeghpour says. “I had proposed the opera several times before and now just happened to be the right time. I love this opera because the music is so charming.” Spectators wary about missing out on the charm and humor of Die Fledermaus need not worry: Although the opera is written in German, it will be performed in English with supertitles running above the production in the original text.
As much as the opera is a chance to display the extraordinary talent of the students to the community, Sadeghpour also views it as a fantastic educational tool for the performers themselves. Much of the cast will go on to teach or perform professionally, and Sadeghpour strives to give each member of the production something beneficial to take away from the experience. “People who want to perform professionally learn a lot about the rehearsal process,” Sadeghpour says. “They also do character analyses – both musically and textually – and then learn how to effectively apply those analyses to their performance.” An invaluable experience for future music educators is learning how to effectively structure and execute a rehearsal, as well as learning how to create an ensemble that will work towards the same goal.
Historically, the Eau Claire community has been very supportive and receptive of the university’s opera productions, but interaction has increased substantially between the two for Die Fledermaus. In an effort to increase sustainability and effectively help the opera “go green,” members of the community have contributed to the opera’s costumes and set designs. Every dress worn by the female members of the cast has been constructed from pieces of different dresses that were donated to the production. “This is a work of art that the community had a direct hand in,” Sadeghpour says. “I think people interested in sustainability will be curious to see how we’ve done it in this production.”
Another part of sustainability is nurturing human resources, and as such, a few local businesses have stepped up to feed members of the cast once a week. The gratitude towards the community for all of their continued support is deeply felt by those involved in the opera’s production. As a thank-you, a reception will be held in the lobby of Haas Fine Arts Center before the performance on opening night.
UW-Eau Claire production of Die Fledermaus • 7:30pm Thursday, Feb. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 23, and Thursday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 3 • Gantner Concert Hall, Haas Fine Arts Center, 121 Water St. • Tickets can be purchased at the UW-Eau Claire Service Center in the east lobby of Davies Center on campus • Ticket information: (715) 836-3727.