MTSU Opera Workshop will turn Hinton Hall into a Parisian embassy ballroom full of romantic and political intrigue Feb. 19-20 when the company recreates Franz Lehár’s beloved 1905 operetta “The Merry Widow.”
Presented by MTSU Arts, the 7:30 p.m. performances inside the university’s Wright Music Building are being directed by Amy Tate Williams, chorus master and accompanist for Nashville Opera as well as the longtime opera director for the MTSU-based Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts.
(UPDATE: The MTSU Arts Patrons Reception scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, has been canceled due to inclement weather. The reception will be rescheduled at a later date.)
The student cast says they’re up to the challenge of telling Lehár’s tale: the musical story of what appears to be half a country’s determination to marry off a rich young widow to a local fellow to keep her 20 million francs at home and their national economy stable.
“We hope people come to see it and laugh along with the characters,” said junior Garrett Doo, a baritone from Munford, Tennessee, who portrays the busybody ambassador Baron Zeta.
“It’s a lot of fun. It gives me the opportunity to get experience doing a full opera and working with someone of Amy’s caliber.”
“We always have a good time because many of us have been working together since our freshman year,” added Beth Ann Stripling, the Knoxville junior whose soprano voice is getting a merry workout in the lead role of Hanna Glawari.
“This is a wonderful resume builder, but we really enjoy performing it, too. This is a great environment for us to learn and work in.”
MTSU Opera, directed by School of Music professor Dr. Raphael Bundage, regularly presents fully staged, professional-caliber productions for the campus community, offering in-depth experience for undergraduate and graduate students in performances including “Sweeney Todd,” “Ragtime: The Musical” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Many of the students, who are vocal performance majors, also work with MTSU Theatre musical productions and have been part of recent sold-out presentations of Handel’s “Messiah” and “Les Misérables.”
“I auditioned for this show because I’m seeking a career in opera as well as planning for graduate school,” explained Murfreesboro senior William Taylor Duke, who’s portraying the ambassador’s intended new husband for Hanna, Count Danilo. “It’s a fine opportunity for each of us to build up our professional experience.”
The operetta, first performed in Vienna in 1905, became a fast hit, leading to international tours, revivals, cast recordings and two film versions in the century since. Its settings range from the Parisian embassy headquarters of the fictional nation of Pontevedro to the widow’s posh garden to an evening at the famous Maxim’s cabaret as the characters pursue, ignore, entice and infuriate each other.
The Metropolitan Opera recently opened a new production of “The Merry Widow” featuring soprano Renee Fleming that will resume in April and be screened later in theaters worldwide. You can prepare for the MTSU production by listening to a 1907 recording of “The Merry Widow Waltz,” the most well-known tune in the operetta’s score, below.
General-admission tickets for the Feb. 19-20 performances are $10 for adults and $5 for all non-MTSU students and will be available at the door. MTSU students, faculty and staff will be admitted free with a valid ID. For more ticket information, call 615-898-2849.
For information on becoming a member of the MTSU Arts Patrons Society and supporting fine arts at MTSU, visit www.mtsu.edu/mtsuarts/patronssociety.php.