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University of Iowa News Release

June 23, 2003

UI Opera Theater Offers 'A Little Night Music' July 11-20

The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will take summer audiences out for "A Weekend in the Country" with their production of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," opening at 8 p.m. Friday, July 11 in Clapp Recital Hall.

Other performances of "A Little Night Music" will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 12 and Friday-Saturday, July 18-19, as well as matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays, July 13 and 20.

The most popular among Sondheim's string of more than a dozen Broadway shows, "A Little Night Music" also includes his greatest hit song, "Send in the Clowns." Featuring a cast of UI students, the production is directed by voice faculty member John Muriello. Timothy Stalter will conduct the performances.

"Sondheim is one of those artists whose work speaks for itself," Muriello commented. "His texts are so pure, and at the same time many-layered, and his music is so incisive and intricate that everything you need to make it work is right on the page. It is our job to understand it, get to the bottom layer of every single moment, and channel it to the audience."

Composed entirely in waltz time and its variations, "A Little Night Music" represents Sondheim's tribute to the era of elegant operettas. Based on the 1956 Ingmar Bergman film "Smiles of a Summer Night," it tells of tangled loves and foolish choices -- all of which reach a delicious crisis and resolve themselves happily during an endless Midsummer's Eve.

The middle-aged lawyer Frederik Egerman is recently married to Anne, a teen-aged bride, but their relationship remains unconsummated. When Frederik attends a theatrical performance by his old flame, Desiree Armfeldt, he finds his passion for the glamorous actress re-ignited, but an after-hours backstage visit is interrupted by her current lover, the pompous Count Carl-Magnus Malcom. Complicating matters, Malcom's young wife is friends with Anne Egerman.

When Desiree invites the Egerman family -- Frederik, Anne and Frederik's gloomy seminary-student son Henrik -- for a weekend at the Armfeldt country estate, Malcom decides to crash the party. At first the tension is palpable, but under the benevolent glow of the midnight sun, the potential for true love begins to blossom as each of the characters experiences a moment of insight. As Desiree sings in the show's most famous song, "Where are the clowns? ... Don't bother, they're here."

Referring to Sondheim's characteristic mixture of the bitter with the sweet, Broadway producer Hal Prince characterized "A Little Night Music" as "whipped cream with knives."

"'A Little Night Music' is heady, civilized, sophisticated and enchanting," Clive Barnes wrote for the New York Times. "It is Dom Perignon. . . . The music is a celebration of 3/4 time, an orgy of plaintively memorable waltzes, all talking of past loves and lost worlds. Then of course, there are Mr. Sondheim's breathtaking lyrics. They have the kind of sassy, effortless poetry that Cole Porter mastered."

Among members of the cast, the couple whose renewed passion sets the plot in motion, Desiree Armfeldt and Frederik Egerman, will be portrayed by Elisabeth Bieber and David Playfair. Others in the cast will include Jeff Bieber as Henrik Egerman, Ed Corpus as Carl-Magnus Malcom, Kerri Middleton as Charlotte Malcom and Rachel Walker as Anne Egerman. Ruthann McTyre will appear as Madame Armfeldt.

Scene design is by Margaret Wenk of the Division of Performing Arts Production Unit. Lighting design is by Jacob Welch. Costumes are provided by Ibsen Costume Gallery of Omaha, Neb.

A singer whose work ranges from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. His recent engagements include performances in the title role of the UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater production of Tartuffe in 2001 and the Riverside theatre's production of "Sweet and Hot." In the fall of 1998 he made his directing debut with the UI School of Music production of the musical comedy "The Fantasticks," and he directed the School of Music production of "She Loves Me" in 1999.

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 performed as the Narrator and Mysterious Man in Sondheim's "Into the Woods" and Marcello in "La Boheme" for Lyric Opera Cleveland. Other roles have ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" to Voltaire in Bernstein's "Candide."

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. He directs Kantorei, the premier choral ensemble of the School of Music, teaches graduate conducting courses, and administers the graduate program in choral conducting. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States.

In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad. A specialist in the music of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, he is known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has appeared as tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, the Robert Shaw Chamber Choir in Atlanta, the Classical Music Seminar and Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. He has recorded as tenor soloist with conductor Robert Shaw on two compact discs released on the Telarc label.

Tickets for "A Little Night Music" are $20 ($10 for UI students and youth) from the Hancher box office. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

Hancher Auditorium summer box office business 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. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher .

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. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <hancherboxoffice@uiowa.edu>.

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 and Sciences.

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/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <ur-acr@uiowa.edu>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, peter-alexander@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.