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Jacobs School of Music

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

IU Opera Theater to present collegiate premiere of 'The Light in the Piazza' this summer

Feb. 25, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Continuing a long tradition of presenting important music premieres, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music announced today (Feb. 25) that it will produce the collegiate premiere of the celebrated musical The Light in the Piazza (music and lyrics by Adam Guettel) in a brand-new production during the 2009 IU Summer Music Festival.

Performance dates are July 31 and Aug. 1, 7, and 8. Tickets will become available in late spring, when the full schedule for the Summer Music Festival is announced.

The IU Opera Theater production follows the 2003 premiere at the Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center and a Broadway run. With performances in the Musical Arts Center, The Light in the Piazza will be staged by Jacobs Professor Vincent Liotta with sets and costumes designed by Jacobs Professor C. David Higgins. Dan Riddle, who conducted this work at New York's Beaumont Theater, will make his IU Opera Theater debut as conductor and music director.

Light in the Piazza

An image from "The Light in the Piazza" as staged by Playhouse on the Square in Memphis.

"Playing the piano part in that show and for the cast album, as well as conducting many performances, was one of the most fulfulling musical experiences of my life," said Riddle of his experience in the original Broadway production. "I absolutely love Adam Guettel's music."

"Dean (Gwyn) Richards has been wanting to present this work since it first hit Broadway in 2005," said Maria Levy, executive administrator of IU Opera and Ballet Theater. "We are thrilled to be doing the collegiate premiere here in Bloomington!"

Based on a novella by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza takes place in Italy in the summer of 1953. Margaret Johnson, the wife of an American businessman, is touring the Tuscan countryside with her daughter Clara. While sightseeing, Clara -- a beautiful, surprisingly childish young woman -- loses her hat in a sudden gust. As if guided by an unseen hand, the hat lands at the feet of Fabrizio Naccarelli, a handsome Florentine. When he returns the hat, an immediate, intense romance begins between the two.

Margaret is protective of her daughter and attempts to keep Clara and Fabrizio apart. As The Light in the Piazza unfolds, a secret is revealed; in addition to cultural differences between the young lovers, Clara is not quite all that she appears. Unable to suppress the truth about her daughter, Margaret is forced to reconsider not only Clara's future, but her own hopes as well.

Stage director Liotta said the production team began working on the sets two months ago. "The story is fragmented, so we're trying to make it so the action moves seamlessly from one place to another and still will evoke Florence in springtime," he said, adding that turntable units will transform into different parts of the city, including the hotel, cafe and house where some of the action takes place. Auditions for the show will take place this week, with rehearsal starting in July.

"Adam Guettel is Richard Rodgers' (of Rodgers & Hammerstein) grandson, so he's a third-generation composer of American musicals in his family," said Liotta. "It's interesting to hear how he writes in his own way, but in the melodic tradition of Richard Rodgers."

When Riddle's friend and colleague Dale Rieling (Broadway conductor and music director) heard Jacobs was staging The Light in the Piazza, he suggested Riddle for the Bloomington production. Rieling previously spent time at Jacobs, conducting She Loves Me and The Secret Garden.

"I have long known of Indiana University," said Riddle. "When I was quite young in Dallas, I frequently met (Jacobs Dean Emeritus) Charles Webb, whose sister was one of my mother's best friends. I ended up studying at Juilliard because of my childhood piano teacher's close affiliation with that school (and my future teacher there), but I always held IU in very high esteem."

Riddle said that while he classifies Piazza as a musical, the line between what most people consider opera and musical has become increasingly blurred -- which he sees as a positive thing. "Good theatre is good theatre in any case," Riddle said. "I think this is a great piece for a college production. I'm surprised that this is the first one, and I'm very honored to be a part of it."

Indiana University's Summer Music Festival

The IU Summer Music Festival, the largest collegiate festival of its kind in the U.S., will take place from mid-June through mid-August. A wide variety of performances include the virtuosic Festival Orchestra, with conductors David Robertson, Mario Venzago and Giancarlo Guerrero; an international chamber music series; outdoor band concerts and other special events. A schedule for the festival will be available by the end of March.

For more information about the Jacobs School of Music, see