Butler Opera Theatre to present its spring production

MALACHI WHITE | STAFF REPORTER | mrwhite1@butler.edu

Butler University Opera Theatre and the Butler Symphony Orchestra will perform two one-act operas, “Trouble in Tahiti” by Leonard Bernstein and “Suor Angelica” by Giacomo Puccini, on April 13 and 14 in the Schrott Center for the Arts.

The productions question the validity of the American dream and explore the hardships women face amongst rigid gender inequity. Both productions are under the direction of Butler alumnus and voice instructor Thaddeus T.J. Bourne and the music direction of maestro James Caraher.

“Trouble in Tahiti,” Bernstein’s first opera, explores a post-war American couple’s longing for love and intimacy in a time where consumerism is king. The opera will be the first of the evening and is sung in English.

There are five voice performance students in the cast. Junior Derek Rippe and senior Julia Gries lead the production playing Sam and Dinah. Senior Alana Jones and sophomores Avery Schott and Bailey Gordon make up a jazz trio heavily featured throughout the opera.

Julia Gries has been in all Butler Opera Theatre productions since her first year on campus.

“I think ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ is different than a lot of the stuff we normally do, and I think that it’s something that people who aren’t necessarily opera fans can enjoy,” Gries said. “It’s fun, it’s very relevant, it deals with male and female roles, and we’re also doing it with the Butler Symphony Orchestra which is an incredible opportunity.”

The second opera “Suor Angelica: is set in a convent in Italy in the latter part of the 17th century, telling the story of desires, family, sacrifices, and death in a community of nuns.

The cast is entirely female featuring senior voice performance major Rachel Purvis playing Suor Angelica, voice faculty Kirsten Gunlogson and her 4-year-old daughter.

Purvis has been active in Butler Opera Theatre all four years and is excited to take on the challenging and emotional role of Suor Angelica who is a nun in the convent who ultimately takes her own life because of series of tragedies.

“This opera is seemingly so simple, but it’s actually quite complex. For her entire life, Angelica has been put under these strict standards that she never has really fit into,” Purvis said. “I think that this story is relatable to a modern audience because even though these standards are different from the ones we set today specifically for women, they still emphasize the reality that women are facing.”

“Suor Angelica” will be sung in Italian, but Purvis hopes the music and the provided subtitles will be helpful to follow the story.

“The music is exciting and even though Suor Angelica is in Italian, the music makes it easy to understand what is happening,” Purvis said. “Everyone involved has worked incredibly hard to put on these two productions, and it would mean so much to all of us if we could get support in the audience.”

The productions are put on by a studio class called Butler Opera Theatre. The class incorporates the music and voice technique learned in private lessons to be applied in a professional environment. James Caraher has been the music director of Butler Opera Theatre for most of the productions seasons and has taught and mentored students at Butler.

“These productions have been a lot of fun to prepare with the students in the opera class,” Caraher said. “For some, it was a first venture and probably, the first time that they will sing with a live orchestra; and for the older students, who fill the major roles, it will hopefully be a great way to end their time at Butler, and provide a springboard to the next level of opera for those looking to continue their studies.

With an extensive career and resume in the world of opera, Caraher encourages all students to come to the opera for new experiences.

“Butler students should come and see what their classmates have accomplished this year not only to support their friends, but also to hear what live, unamplified music is like,” Caraher said  “Opera is the only remaining art form that still, or at least should, be unamplified, and to hear the athleticism of the unamplified voice is a very special experience.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $7.50 for students and $15 for general public. BCR and JCA performance credit is offered to students.



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