Opera Takes to the Sky


The Butler Opera will take its performance of “Il Mondo della Luna” (“The World on the Moon”) as close to the moon as possible on Butler University’s campus.

The 75-minute show will be staged in the Holcomb Observatory.

Thomas Studebaker, assistant professor of voice and director of the lyric theatre program, said the original opera by Franz Joseph Haydn was written to be performed in an observatory.

He said this presents some challenges for the company.

“One challenge is the size. It’s going to be different with such a small space,” Studebaker said. “Another is, the dome of the planetarium is going to be different and really loud because it works like a whispering arch.”

A whispering arch is a circular or hemispherical structure that amplifies and slightly alters sound.

To counteract this, performers will need to sing differently to create the same sound they would produce if performing in a hall.

“They are training not to use too much voice so there isn’t a need to hand (audience members) Tylenol for headaches while going out the door,” Studebaker said.

Freshman Isabella Ferrari, a voice performance major and member of the production’s chorus, said she is excited to be in such a unique space.

“It’s a lot more different than performing on stage, but it’s a nice change,” Ferrari said.

“We’re performing six shows in three days, and it may seem like a lot, but to me it just seems fun.”

Originally, the Butler Opera was to perform “1940’s Radio Show,” but the schedule was changed to better fit with the “Fables, Fairy Tales and Physics” theme of this year’s ArtsFest.

“It’s a silly little story, but the idea is, in the 1700s when the play was written, they were thinking about life on the moon,” Studebaker said. “Now, we are in a time where we have walked on the moon, which would have been unthinkable then.”

He said the play will be set around the time the observatory was built, “which was about the same time we first started sending people into space, too,” Studebaker said.

Because the original opera has a three-hour running time, he said some edits were made for a more practical production. Many songs were shortened or changed completely.

“The music is definitely simpler than (that of) our performance last semester,” Ferrari said.

Studebaker said he hopes this will raise motivation for attendance.

“We’ve cut it down from three hours to an hour and 15 minutes, making it more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily opera-goers,” Studebaker said. “I think for people who don’t go to the opera, this would be a good first experience for them because we sing everything in English, and this is the kind of piece that’s kind of fun.”

Studebaker also mentioned how Butler students would have the most fun at the later performance on April 8 because of the night sky in the observatory.

Shows will be presented at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on April 7 and 9, and at 7 and 11 p.m. on April 8.

Tickets are available through the Butler ArtsFest website, www.butlerartsfest.com.