“For the first time in my 24 years as the University of Utah’s Director of Opera, I’ll direct a fantastic student cast as we present this show. It’s my hope that we’ll change some minds about this under-appreciated gem,” said School of Music’s director of opera Professor Robert Breault.
Breault will direct the Lyric Opera Ensemble, and U Professor Robert Baldwin will conduct the Utah Philharmonia. Choreography will be provided by Denny Benny, the head of the U’s Musical Theatre Department. The production will be sung in Italian with English supertitles by Paul Dorgan. The opera will also feature a special appearance by Kipper Brothers’ Puppet Works.
Debuting first in 1917 in Monte Carlo, “La Rondine” is an opera by Giacomo Puccini that highlights the themes of love and art. Following the story’s heroine, Magda, through her misfortunes and aspirations, the show takes place the days before WWII begins and focuses on societal shifts within that time frame.
The Puccini opera is known for its diverse music and story and has had success throughout different venues in the world.
“It’s my responsibility to provide the students with a cohesive and artistic platform that inspires them to act and sing in the best way possible, both as soloists and as an ensemble,” said Breault.
It is unusual for a college art ensemble to feature Puccini’s music as it is incredibly demanding. However, “We just happen to have eight principle singers right now who have the right kinds of voices to do the piece justice,” said Breault. “It’s important to me that the students have the chance to sing repertoire that allows them to express themselves beautifully and expressively but that does not over-tax them.”
The cast is comprised entirely of students and features Robyn VanLeigh and Katherine Brim as the lead heroine, Magda. Lauren Slagowski and Ivana Martinic will portray Magda’s maid Lisette, David Sauer and Addison Marlor performing Magda’s love Ruggero, and Anthony Buck and Alan Smith will present Prunier the poet. Other members of the U’s Lyric Opera Ensemble will also be performing.
“It has been wonderful working in this setting with a really fun cast and great directors who make the process rewarding,” said Stefan Larsen, a junior at the U and member of the ensemble.
Breault explained, “The students are exhausted from working so hard. I am very proud of them for their determination, dedication, and, hard work. We’re all working together to present this under-appreciated gem of an opera.”
“La Rondine” is promised to be a wonderfully energetic and diverse portrayal of timeless story and superb talent from the U’s very own students.
“I didn’t grow up with opera in my life so I can say it this way; if you haven’t had a chance to hear an opera, this is the perfect opportunity…. I wish students would take advantage of this opportunity. The experience of seeing an opera for the first time changed my life literally,” said Breault.
With a running time of an hour and 45 minutes, “La Rondine” will play April 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Kingsbury Hall.