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IU Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Friday, April 7, 2006

From Hell to Heaven

A grand new IU Opera and Ballet Theater season

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Opera and Ballet Theater formally announced its 2006-07 season today (April 8), giving regional music and dance patrons an opportunity to choose from a broad offering of blockbuster favorites, as well as a few works that stray from the well-trodden path. With seven operas and three ballets this season, IU Opera and Ballet Theater continues to lead the nation in the number of collegiate productions it produces.

Mozart's masterpiece "Don Giovanni" will kick off IU Opera Theater's 2006-07 season.

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The season opens on September 22 with a new production of Mozart's masterpiece Don Giovanni. Billed as a drama giocoso (playful drama), the opera provides a gripping account of the amorous exploits of literature's most notorious philanderer. With new sets designed by IU master scenic artist and staff designer C. David Higgins, the opera will be stage-directed by returning guest Tito Capobianco and conducted by IU's own David Effron.

Fall Ballet takes its traditional place in the season, early October, giving regional dance lovers an opportunity to see legendary ballets matched with contemporary works that extend traditions of style and technique.

Jules Massenet's poignant Manon, considered to be the best of his 25 operas, will follow. This "perfect example of French opera," about an exceedingly beautiful young girl ready to blossom into womanhood, will be designed by IU's world-renowned Robert O'Hearn. The opera will mark the return of stage director Michael Ehrman, following his successes in Ballad of Baby Doe and last year's Romeo et Juliette. Belgian conductor Ronald Zollman, who conducted this year's Spring Ballet, will make his IU Opera Theater debut.

In time for the holidays, IU Opera and Ballet Theater offers not only the traditional and extremely popular Nutcracker ballet, with choreography by Jacques Cesbron and sets by David Higgins, but something for children of all ages in the Humperdink opera Hansel and Gretel. This lasting masterpiece, based on the fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, provides an enchanting opportunity to share the wonder of opera with children and showcase some amazing special effects. The production marks the debut of William Fred Scott as conductor with IU Opera Theater.

In February 2007, the season takes a comedic turn with the pairing of Too Many Sopranos, composed by IU Jacobs School of Music faculty member Edwin Penhorwood, with the rarely performed Arlecchino by Ferruccio Busoni.

"It's sort of like 'American Idol' with St. Peter as the master of ceremonies," said IU Jacobs School of Music faculty member Edwin Penhorwood of his comic opera "Too Many Sopranos."

Too Many Sopranos, which premiered in 2001 and was dedicated to IU Jacobs School Dean Emeritus Charles Webb, offers a little something for everyone. "For season ticket-holders and habitual opera-goers," said Penhorwood, "there are a lot of inside jokes they'll catch on to." Young people who regularly tune in to FOX's hit television show American Idol should "get a hoot" out of observing four operatic divas compete in heaven before St. Peter for a spot in the heavenly choir, Penhorwood said. Much to the sopranos' dismay, only one of them will be allowed into the chorus. (There's not room for all of them because too many basses and tenors wound up in hell!)

"It's sort of like American Idol with St. Peter as the master of ceremonies and Gabriel, who has the divine powers to accompany him," Penhorwood joked. "It's a good entry level for young people and even people who think they can't stand opera!"

Complementing Too Many Sopranos, the one-act Arlecchino (Harlequin) is an operatic fantasy in the commedia dell'arte (Italian comedy) style. Based on the humorous performances by professional theatrical troupes around Italy in the 16th century, the 20th-century score crafts a refreshing plot in which the main character plays four parts.

Later in the semester will be Richard Strauss' Arabella. With its romantic Viennese plot and lush, waltz-time melodies, the opera captures the spirit of 19th-century Vienna. IU's veteran Vincent Liotta will stage the work, and German conductor Klauspeter Seibel will make his debut with the company.

Back by popular demand, IU Ballet Theater will recreate Prokofiev's Cinderella, giving the regional community a second opportunity to see this acclaimed production. With choreography by IU's Jacques Cesbron, magical sets designed by David Higgins and musical direction by David Effron, Cinderella will appeal to the entire family. A special Saturday matinee performance has been added.

Back by popular demand, IU Ballet Theater will recreate Prokofiev's "Cinderella" next spring.

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The season will close with Puccini's exotic and deeply moving Madama Butterfly. This most enduring of all operas will be stage-directed by internationally recognized Nicholas Muni, who will make his IU Opera Theater debut. David Effron will conduct the orchestra.

In all, IU Opera and Ballet Theater present a season that will travel the globe and traverse the span between Heaven and Hell, all from the comfort of a seat in IU Bloomington's Musical Arts Center.

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