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University of Iowa News Release

June 25, 2004

UI Opera Theater Offers 'Perfect Summer Family Fare' July 9 - 18

For its summer offering, the University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will present a serving of "perfect summer family fare" -- Rossini's "Cinderella," in a new adaptation and English translation by director Gary Race. Performances will be at 8 p.m. July 9 and 16, and 2 p.m. July 11 and 18 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Performances will feature the University of Iowa Summer Orchestra conducted by William LaRue Jones. Scenic and costume design are by Margaret Wenk of the Division of Performing Arts Production Unit.

One of the best known stories in the world, the tale of a neglected girl who triumphs over adversity and her cruel relatives has been told from Ireland and Norway to Kashmir and Vietnam. Versions have been known from at least the Middle Ages up to the present, and in every medium from folk tale and poem to film and musical comedy.

Rossini's operatic version has all the familiar characters of the best-known Cinderella stories, but with an interesting twist. Because the prince wants to find "a true and loving heart," he and his advisor disguise themselves in order to see the true character of the young women in the kingdom. Exchanging places with his valet, the Prince learns first-hand about Cinderella's goodness and the stepsisters' greed. This makes the outcome a result of Cinderella's and the Prince's character, rather than magic and luck.

In crafting his adaptation of the opera, Race was inspired in part by the success of the "Shrek" movies. "I want to present the story in a way that emphasizes the inner beauty of the characters more than their superficial qualities," he said.

"For our production, the stepsisters are not ugly. They are quite beautiful on the outside -- vain and self-centered to be sure, but glamorous to beat the band. In contrast, Cinderella and the prince are a bit geeky, so it isn't outer beauty that attracts them to each other.

"With light-hearted humor and the triumph of goodness, it's the ideal story for a summer evening. And at less than two hours, our version should be perfect summer family fare."

To create a setting where empty glamour could be set against the better qualities of Cinderella and the prince, Race and designer Margaret Wenk have set the opera in the 1920s -- a period that stands for glamour and greed -- "partly just for fun, but also to bring out and celebrate the real beauty of the story," he said. "We hope everyone will enjoy our adaptation of this classic tale."

The cast of students and community members will feature Elisabeth Bieber in the title role and Dennis Willhoit as the prince, Don Ramiro. The role of Don Magnifico, Cinderella's stepfather, will be performed by George McTyre; and the two step sisters, Clorinda and Thisbe, will be Heather Youngquist and Elizabeth Duhr. Alidoro, the prince's tutor, will be portrayed by Adam Lewis; and Dandid, the valet, by Michael Krzankowski. Eric McEnaney will portray "a pianist for hire."

Gary Race came to the UI from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he served as director of opera for six years. He was also artistic director of Lyric Opera Cleveland for two seasons. His 30-plus years of experience include the direction of more than 100 productions for regional companies including Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Utah Opera.

As an educator Race has presented workshops on performance techniques for opera singers in colleges and universities across the country, including Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Duquesne, Syracuse, Miami University, Ithaca College and the University of Maryland at College Park. He has created and directed arts education programs for many opera companies, for Gateway to the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, and the National Symphony Orchestra, where he continues to serve as an education consultant.

A UI music alumnus, William LaRue 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 has appeared as a guest conductor with a wide array of professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. He has conducted more than 70 all-state orchestras with additional festival/clinics in most of the 50 states and Canadian provinces. Jones is currently music director and conductor of the Oshkosh (Wis.) Symphony. A highly honored musician, he received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota, a music honorary society.

Tickets for "Cinderella" are $20 ($16 for seniors and $10 for UI students and youth). Tickets are available through the Hancher Auditorium box office.

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: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

The School of Music and 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.