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IU Opera Theater season closes with Verdiís comedic 'Falstaff'

WHAT: "Falstaff" by Giuseppe Verdi
WHEN: 8 p.m. April 5, 6, 12 and 13
WHERE: Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.
TICKETS: Purchase tickets at the Musical Arts Center box office from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, by phone at 812-855-7433 or online at A discounted price is available for all students.
VIDEO STREAMING: April 5 and 6 only. Featuring live blogging by musicology students.

March 27, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Opera Theater will bring its 2012-13 season to a close by celebrating the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi with a production of his "Falstaff" April 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. in Bloomington's Musical Arts Center.

Ray Fellman (as Falstaff) and Tasha Koontz (as Alice) rehearse a scene from IU Opera Theater's "Falstaff," with performances April 5, 6, 12 and 13.

Print-Quality Photo

The season finale marks the first time stage director Robin Guarino has worked with IU Opera, while conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos returns to the podium and retired professor Robert O'Hearn provides set and costume designs.

"This is an amazing convergence of extraordinary talent—friends I worked with many years ago and new friends," said Guarino. "Among them, Kevin Murphy [IU Opera director of coaching and music administration] and I were young artists together at the Met in the 90s, and I've worked with Ray Fellman [Falstaff] at both Glimmerglass and Florida Grand Opera. I'm thrilled to be debuting with IU Opera Theater and am extremely impressed by the incredibly gifted students here."

Joshua Conyers, a master's student of Timothy Noble at the Jacobs School of Music, will sing the title role opening and closing nights.

"Falstaff is such a complex character," Conyers said. "He is witty yet naÔve, confident yet delusional and emotional. These characteristics make him likable and unlike any other 'antagonist' in any play or opera.

"My approach to the role is rooted in the text. I have spent countless hours digging into the text and speaking the words in its natural vernacular and also in rhythm. The role is truly about the text and the inflection behind the words, even though the music is superb and just about perfect."

Jacobs alumnus Ray Fellman, professor of voice for the new B.F.A. in Musical Theatre degree in the IU Department of Theatre and Drama, will sing the lead in the April 6 and 12 performances.

Because of the vocal demands of the role, it's not unusual to cast it with a faculty member or a guest artist, who have more developed voices than younger singers.

"I last performed the title role while pursuing a Performer Diploma in Voice at Jacobs over 15 years ago," said Fellman. "At that time, I was double cast with Professor Timothy Noble and soon realized how lucky I was to get to watch and learn from one of the best."

"Falstaff" was Verdi's last opera, written in his late seventies, and only the second of his 28 operas to be a comedy.

Based on Shakespeare's comedic "The Merry Wives of Windsor," the story follows Sir Falstaff, a vain and cowardly over-the-hill knight, and the revenge two married women wreak on him after they discover he has sent them each identical love letters.

"It's really so inspiring to come back to the MAC after all these years and see that the same high standards that were in place when I was a student are still intact," said Fellman. "It's a true testament to the strength of the Jacobs School's faculty, administration and incredibly talented student body."

The April 5 and 6 performances of "Falstaff" will be live-streamed via the IU Music Live! site.