CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 6, 2001
UI Opera Theater to present 'Tartuffe' April 27-29
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater
will present Kirke Mechem's "Tartuffe," an opera based on the classic
Moliere comedy, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 27
and 28, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre
The title role will be taken by baritone John Muriello from the UI School
of Music faculty, a veteran of opera, operetta and musical theater who has
attracted a devoted local following.
One of the most popular American operas ever, "Tartuffe" has had
more than 200 productions since its 1980 premiere in San Francisco, and it
has been performed around the world in English, German, Russian, Japanese,
and even Mandarin Chinese. A lavish production by the Mussorgsky National
Theater of St. Petersburg, Russia -- funded by a grant from a foundation founded
by the Grateful Dead -- ran for three years.
The play and the opera alike are based on one of the oldest plot kernels
in literature, theater and opera -- a hard-headed father who tries to force
his daughter to marry a man she despises. In this case the unwelcome suitor
is Tartuffe, possibly the greatest hypocrite in all literature. Claiming to
be a man of high moral principles, Tartuffe is in reality a cunning lecher,
cheat, thief, liar and fraud who hoodwinks the unwilling girl's wealthy father,
Orgon, in order to seduce Orgon's wife and make off with the family's riches.
Orgon's family sees through Tartuffe's hypocrisy, but their attempt to unmask
his true character backfires. Tartuffe's show of sanctity so blinds Orgon
that he orders his son from his home and deeds his house and goods over to
Tartuffe. When a second plot finally reveals Tartuffe's treachery, it seems
that the game is up, but Tartuffe merely shakes the deed of gift at Orgon
"It's you, not I, who has to leave!" Only a last-minute reversal
saves the day for Orgon, who finally confesses his foolishness, embraces his
family and allows his daughter to marry her preferred suitor.
The production of "Tartuffe" will be directed by Sally Stunkel,
the director of the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater, and the University Symphony
will be conducted by William LaRue Jones.
Mezzo-soprano Melissa Malde, a member of the faculty at the University of
Northern Colorado and former faculty at Luther College in Decorah, will perform
as a guest artist, in the role of Orgon's wife, Elmire. UI graduate Barbara
Buddin will perform the role of Orgon's mother, Madame Pernelle.
Other members of the cast will be UI music students: Stephanie Thorpe as
Orgon's daughter, Mariane; Michael Shelledy as Orgon's son, Damis; Maria Gimenez
as Mariane's maid, Dorime; Edward Corpus as Orgon; and Lawrence Reppert as
Mariane's fiance, Valerie.
Set and costume design are by Margaret Wenk of the Division of Performing
Arts. Production Unit. Lighting design is by Laurel Shoemaker. Musical preparation
is by Opera Theater coach/accompanist Shari Rhoads.
Though scarcely a household name, Mechem writes music that is flowing, melodious,
dramatic and highly accessible. He is also known for his use of clever musical
quotations and parodies. In "Tartuffe" these range from suggestions
of Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky to exact quotation of the opening notes
of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony -- followed by the line, "Sounds like fate
knocking at the door."
Mechem wrote of composing "Tartuffe," "Moliere had fun with
language and so did I. He invented words, he punned, and he told literary
purists that the end of comedy was to please -- that his success was his justification.
I have taken the same attitude as composer. The score abounds in musical jokes,
parody, caricature, even musical puns.
"The composer cannot, of course, be his own judge. I can say only that
I have tried, like Yeats, 'to rediscover an art of the theatre which shall
be joyful, fantastic, extravagant, whimsical, beautiful, resonant and altogether
reckless.' It sounds like a good description of Moliere."
Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. His
engagements include several performances as with the Skylight Opera Theatre
in Milwaukee and most recently in Riverside Theatre's production of "Sweet
and Hot." In the fall of 1998 he made his directing debut with the UI
production of the musical comedy "The Fantasticks," and he directed
UI productions of "She Loves Me" in 1999 and "Yeomen of the
Guard" in 2000.
Muriello has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina,
the Banff Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Skylight Opera Theater,
Ohio Light Opera and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta. He has also performed
in concert and recital throughout the Midwest and the Southeast.
Buddin sang many leading roles with the UI Opera Theater while she was a
student in the School of Music, including the title role in Bizet's "Carmen"
in 1989. Other major roles were in the UI Opera Theater productions of "The
Elixir of Love," "The Gondoliers," "Dialogues of the Carmelites"
and "Il Trovatore." She has performed frequently with the Quad City
Symphony. She taught at Kirkwood Community College and currently teaches private
Malde has performed throughout the United States, including appearances with
Opera Colorado, the Kentucky Opera, the Ohio Light Opera, the Bangor Symphony,
the Cedar Rapids Symphony, the Dorian Opera Theatre and the Cedar Rapids Opera
Theatre. She has performed in Germany and sung with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra
and the Prague Radio Symphony.
Malde holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, the Cincinnati Conservatory
of Music and the Munich Conservatory. While in Munich she won first prize
in the Kulturforum Competition. She also won the Cincinnati Conservatory's
Concerto Contest, Chicago's Sudler Oratorio Competition, a Farwell Award and
the Brice-Gooter Award from the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Malde taught at Luther College in Decorah for five years before returning
to her home state of Colorado.
Stunkel was appointed director of UI Opera Theater in the fall of 1999.
She has directed for many American opera companies, including the Sacramento
Opera, the Tulsa Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Skylight Opera,
the Aspen Music Festival, the Kentucky Opera and the Four Corners Opera. She
has more than 70 productions to her credit, including straight theater as
well as opera. She headed the opera programs at the former St. Louis Conservatory
of Music, the University of Tennessee and the University of the Pacific in
Stunkel has performed both as an opera singer, performing with the Colorado
Springs Opera, Skylight Opera and Baltimore Opera, and as an actor in spoken
plays, having recently portrayed Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie"
and Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter." With more than
15 years of dance training, she has also choreographed several productions.
Known for her expertise in teaching acting to opera singers, Stunkel has
taught in the apprentice programs at the Des Moines Metro Opera, the Chautauqua
Opera, the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, and the Aspen Music Festival.
She was a co-founder/director/writer for The Opera Parade and Kinderopera,
two touring educational opera companies for children in Maryland.
A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997
as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies.
Prior to joining the UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator
of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.
Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors'
Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership
and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has appeared
as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra,
the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around
the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states
and five Canadian provinces.
Tickets for "Tartuffe" are $15 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens
and youth 18 and under) and are available from the Hancher Auditorium Box
Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.
From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free,
1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard
or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university
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People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should
dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel
prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and
seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with
TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
The School of Music and the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater are part of the
Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts.
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