CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: July 6, 2001
UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater presents an Iowa 'Elixir of Love' July
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater
will transplant one of the staples of 19th-century Italian comic opera to
turn-of-the-century Iowa when they present Donizettis "Elixir of
Love," at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, and at
2 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The production will be directed by Stephen Swanson, a member of the faculty
of the UI School of Music. The University Symphony will be conducted by UI
doctoral conducting student Lucia Matos. The performances will be sung in
The story of the opera, which concerns a shy farm boy, a travelling quack
medicine salesman and a regiment of soldiers, was originally placed in the
Italian countryside. The UI production moves the story to a turn-of-the-century
Iowa farm, complete with a Victorian-style farm house and period costumes.
Swanson said that the decision to move the opera from Italy to Iowa was an
easy one to make: "When we started work on this production, parallels
between the work that Donizetti placed in rural Italy and rural Iowa jumped
out at us. The traveling patent medicine salesman is almost a rural American
cliche. Old Fort Des Moines made a beautiful rationale for the soldiers. And
the presence of Italian-American immigrants in Iowa eliminated the problem
of justifying the characters Italian names."
Tampering with the locale, time and story of operas has become popular among
opera directors. "Its become a trend for opera productions to transplant
the story into different times and places," Swanson said. "Sometimes
directors make changes like this to point out universal themes in the opera,
to help the audience relate to the story, or because they have become bored
working within traditional settings.
"In our case, we made the decision to play The Elixir of Love
in late 19th-century because it seemed like fun. Its fun for us, and
Im sure that the audience will enjoy the Iowa setting. The opera deals
with a universal theme -- the relationship between a shy young man and the
woman he falls in love with -- and it just makes a great Iowa story."
Together with Rossini and Bellini, Donizetti was one of the three leading
Italian composers of the early 19th century, an era now known as the age of
"bel canto," or beautiful song. At that time opera was both popular
entertainment and big business, much like Broadway theater today. "Bel
canto" implies cultivation of vocal virtuosity and a smooth and graceful
Donizetti is said to have composed "The Elixir of Love" in two
weeks early in 1832. The opera was premiered in Milan on May 12 of that year.
In the opera, Nemorino, a bashful country boy, falls desperately in love
with the wealthy, sophisticated and beautiful Adina. He is content to worship
Adina from afar until a regiment of soldiers arrives, led by the dashing Sgt.
Seeing Belcore pay court to Adina, Nemorino turns for help to Dulcamara,
a travelling "doctor" who offers remedies for all ailments, even
love. The naive lover eagerly buys a flask of cheap wine, which the quack
promises will enable him to win Adinas heart within 24 hours.
Dulcamaras magical elixir has an effect at once, as Nemorino loses
his inhibitions, begins to sing and dance -- and appears to forget all about
Adina! She is so annoyed at Nemorinos antics that she agrees on the
spot to marry Belcore. At first she is vague about the date, but an order
for Belcores regiment to leave forces her to agree to an immediate wedding.
In desperation, Nemorino joins Belcores regiment in order to finance
another bottle of elixir. Just when things seem bleakest for the country boy,
in true comic-opera fashion a last-minute reversal of fortune saves the day.
And Dulcamara is able to sell out his entire stock of "elixir" before
making a hasty, and very prudent, getaway.
For the performances of Friday, July 20, and Sunday, July 22, the cast will
feature Amanda Hyberger as Adina, Lawrence Reppert as Nemorino, Edward Corpus
as Dulcamara, Michael Shelledy as Belcore and Jacqueline Lang as Giannetta.
The performance on Saturday, July 21 will feature Stephanie Thorpe as Adina,
Jeffery Krueger as Nemorino, George McTyre as Dulcamara, Adam Lewis as Belcore
and Rachel Lebeck as Giannetta.
Scenic design for "The Elixir of Love" is by Margaret Wenk of the
UI Division of Performing Arts.
Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994. For nearly
20 years before that date he had an active operatic career in Europe. During
that time his repertoire grew to 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals.
He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a
featured soloist in European festivals including the Berliner Festwochen,
the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the Festa Musica Pro in Assisi,
Swanson recently took part in the Viktor Ullman-Projekt 1998, a celebration
of the 100th anniversary of the birth of a composer who died in the Nazi death
camps. Swanson sang major roles in Ullmans operas "Der zerbrochene
Krug" and "Der Kaiser von Atlantis" at performances in Europe,
at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Martyrs Museum
in Los Angeles. Since coming to Iowa City, he has appeared in UI Opera Theater
productions and performances of the Chamber Singers of Iowa City, as well
as solo faculty recitals.
Swanson holds undergraduate degrees from North Park College in Chicago and
a masters degree in music from Northwestern University. He made his
professional debut in 1970, singing in Arnold Schoenbergs opera "Moses
and Aron" with the Chicago Symphony in Chicago and New Yorks Carnegie
Lucia Matos was born in Ourinhos, S.P, Brazil. She received a bachelors
degree in music from the University of Campinas, Brazil. From 1997 to 1998
she worked as assistant conductor at the Campinas Symphony Orchestra and University
of Campinas Symphony Orchestra. In 1998 she was awarded with a Brazilian scholarship
from CAPES for continuing her studies. She received a masters degree
in orchestral conducting from the UI, and she is currently completing the
requirements for a doctorate as a student of UI Symphony conductor William
LaRue Jones. She has conducted the Des Moines Symphony, Americana Symphony
and Campinas Symphony Orchestra.
Tickets for "The Elixir of Love" are $18 ($10 for UI students,
senior citizens and youth 18 and under) and are available from the Hancher
Auditorium Box Office.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. 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 bills, and UI faculty
and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. People with special
needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158.
The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that
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. The production
of "The Elixir of Love" is supported in part by a gift from the
Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation, through the University of Iowa Foundation.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.
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