Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA opera production to feature 'Gianni Schicchi' and 'Sister Angelica'

March 7, 2014 - Robbie Goodrich
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin State University College of Fine Arts and Schools of Music and Theatre will present "Gianni Schicchi" and "Sister Angelica," two one-act operas (sung in English) by Giacomo Puccini, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 27 through 29, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

These performances are features of the 2013-2014 College of Fine Arts' University series, "Live Out Loud." The production will feature SFA's outstanding student singers accompanied by orchestra and staged with full set and costumes, according to Dr. Deborah Dalton, professor of voice at SFA and the opera's director.

Each year, as the opera production team (conductor, director and assistant director) choose the opera, or in this case operas, that will best serve the SFA voice students, much consideration is given to the number of students who are ready to take on a major role and which voice types - soprano, lyric tenor, mezzo-soprano, baritone, bass, etc. - are available, Dalton explained. The size and scope of the orchestral musicians required for particular operas is also considered, she said.

"The SFA School of Music is thriving," Dalton said. "The number of talented voice students expands each year, and it is becoming more and more difficult to find an opera that has enough opportunities for them all.

"'Sister Angelica' and 'Gianni Schicchi' are one-act operas with large casts," she said. "'Angelica' also has a women's chorus. To give an idea of the depth of talent in the vocal arts area, all but four characters are double cast, and each singer is only in one opera. That means there are two operas and four separate casts."

The cast numbers are so large that in the early rehearsals, the singers wore nametags with their character's name written in large print so that the directors could keep track of everyone onstage.

Dalton hopes that those who attend this year's opera will quickly develop an obvious understanding of the amount of work that it takes to mount a production of this size, and that the production generates new opera fans.

"These student singers are trained to be their own microphone and are not amplified at all," she said. " This is singing 'unplugged!' The musicians in the pit are also students whose talent, skill and dedication elevate the entire experience.

"Opera is life," she said. "Opera is entertaining, uplifting and often emotional; opera is not the stereotypical fat lady with a breastplate and horned helmet. Opera is only another form of storytelling. It can move you to tears or hysterical laughter, and I hope these two operas provide opportunities for both."

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $7.50 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu or call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407.

Prior to Thursday's opening night performance, there will be a 7 p.m. informative talk about the opera in Griffith Gallery located across the hall from Turner Auditorium. The audience is invited back to the gallery for a post-performance reception to meet the performers and to honor the event's corporate sponsor, Point A Media.