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Opera Returns to JSU May 27-28

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

April 26, 2004 --After more than a 15-year absence, opera will return to Jacksonville State University at 7 p.m. on May 27 and 28 when the David L. Walters Department of Music presents two one-act operas in Stone Center Theater.

Each opera lasts about 30 minutes. Admission is free, and no reservations are necessary.

Dr. Nathan Wight is director of the operas. He is JSU's assistant professor of voice and has experience in opera performance. "I've performed opera with Houston Grand Opera in Houston, Texas, and in the Sante Fe Opera Apprentice Program," he said. "I've also performed in the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England, and in Edinburg Festival in Scotland."

Assistant director of the operas is JSU's voice instructor, Teresa Cheatham Stricklin.

"There is something for everyone's taste combined into one evening," said Stricklin.

She remembers JSU's first opera, "The Old Maid and the Thief" by Giancarlo Menotti, produced when she was a JSU student. She played the part of the housekeeper.

"That was exciting to be a part of a 'first,'" said Stricklin. "Once again, many years later, another 'first' will happen. Many of the students here have never done opera before."

The operas are Signor Deluso and Down in the Valley. Signor Deluso is a comedy of misconceptions and is about jumping to conclusions. It is composed by Thomas Pasatieri, the orchestrator for Finding Nemo. Celie is in love with a young man, Leon, but her father will not allow it. Deluso's wife believes he is having an affair with Celie. Deluso believes his wife is carrying on with Leon, who believes that Deluso is married to Celie. When the confusion finally reaches the boiling point, the pleasantly plump maid enters the fray to straighten everything out. Jessica Smith, a JSU freshman, is performing the role of Clara in Signor Deluso. The opera is a one-act, opera buffa, meaning, a comedy, and there are seven characters. The music is contemporary with a 20th century sound.

Down in the Valley is written by Kurt Weill, a German-born, American composer who was instrumental in melding opera and musical theater. The opera is about a young girl who is in love with a man who has been sentenced to death in a Birmingham jail for murdering a man. A series of flashbacks portray their love for each other and how the murder happened. Chrystial Hudson, a JSU senior, is performing the role of Jennie in Down in the Valley. It is a classic plot with a tragedy twist of the folk song, "Down in the Valley." The opera has a chorus, some minor roles and about four main roles. The music has lyrical melodies, and is considered "easy listening."

Stricklin said all parts will be portrayed by JSU students.

"We have some fine singers," said Stricklin, "and even though this will be their first experience in opera, I think we'll be starting a fine new tradition as far as excellence in artistry."

For more information contact Dr. Nathan Wight at 782-5876.

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