The A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNCSA presents Gaetano Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece “Maria di Rohan,” which introduces a love triangle and beautiful period costumes to audiences this February.
Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 and 6, and 2 p.m. on Feb. 4, at the High Point Theatre, 220 E. Commerce Ave., High Point. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students with valid ID at www.uncsa.edu/performances or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945.
Fletcher Artistic Director Steven LaCosse is directing the production, and Fletcher Music Director James Allbritten is the music director and conductor. In homage to the legendary interpreter Virginia Zeani, who died last year, the Fletcher Institute dedicates these performances to her impactful revival of “Maria di Rohan.” Zeani was a Romanian-born singer who sang leading soprano roles in the opera houses of Europe and North America. She had “a brilliant, powerful voice and striking looks” according to The New York Times.
“Maria di Rohan” will mark the first time that the Fletcher Opera Institute has performed at the High Point Theatre. The move comes as the Stevens Center is temporarily closed for renovations.
The story of “Maria di Rohan” is simple – a love triangle – but it is complicated by the politics of the day: France under the reign of Louis XII, heavily encouraged by the ambitious Cardinal Richelieu. The titular Marie finds herself torn between two lovers as her clandestine marriage to Duke Enrico of Chevreuse intertwines with the passionate love of Count Riccardo of Chalais.
The opera was written for its debut in Vienna in 1843 and taken to Paris later that same year. Bel canto is defined as “beautiful singing,” or operatic singing that originated in Italy and stresses evenness of vocal tone, vocal agility, and clear articulation of notes and enunciation of words.
“The bel canto singing is a challenge for our students,” LaCosse said. “Most schools would not take a chance on a late bel canto work. We are unique in taking these chances. It helps (students) learn to act with their voices as well as with their faces.
“Our singers really love singing these operas,” he continued. “They love the challenges that they provide.”
Set in the 1600s, “Maria di Rohan” is the kind of piece that allows the students in the UNCSA School of Design and Production (D&P) to get experience in the period, LaCosse noted. Alumna April Hickman (B.F.A. D&P '17), who designed the costumes for Rhiannon Giddens’ and Michael Abels’ Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, “Omar,” will design the costumes for the opera.
“We are lucky to have someone with that kind of experience,” LaCosse said. “It’s been fun for our current design students as well as our student performers to be working with a professional costume designer.”
The cast for “Maria di Rohan” includes Fletcher Opera Fellows Toby Bradford and David Maize as Riccardo; Carolyn Orr as Maria; School of Music Marcel Pietrus as Viscount di Suze; Fletcher Opera Fellows Callie Iliffand Danielle Romano as Armando di Gondì; Robbie Raso and Kevin Spooner as Enrico; School of Music voice student Joshua Jones as De Fiesque; Fletcher Opera Fellow Claire Giffin as Aubrey; School of Music voice students Onyx Velez as The King’s Usher; Tommy Johnston and Jack Seargent as the servants of the Duke; Wyatt Johnston as servant of Chevreuse; and school of Music voice students Caleb Horner, Wynston Lyles, Jackson Ray, Sargeant, Johnston and Velez as archers.
From the School of Design and Production, the scenic designer is Nikolas R. Serrano, the lighting designer is Dominick Zayne Riches, the wig and makeup designer is Victoria Ashmore, the technical director is Emily Weinberger, the scenic paint charge is Jasmin Hernandez, the properties director is Becky Hicks, the production stage manager is Eva Schramm and the production manager is Carson R. Rainey.
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January 23, 2024