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18 January 2008
JSU Operetta Features Trained Singers
and KSES Students

By Hervey Folsom
The Jacksonville News

Reprinted here in its entirety.

The wives of Windsor, England, are plotting something big. To find out what’s afoot, see Jacksonville’s Opera Theatre’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” by Otto Nicolai this week at Mason Hall. In seeing it, you’ll find the elements of a good comedy in an operetta.

There is romance, humor, pranks, and suspense in the story told by lovely voices. The actors are emerging trained singers from JSU’s music department. The 17 instruments in the university’s student orchestra play their special part, too, in the plot.

The comic opera will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday Jan. 17, through Saturday, Jan. 19. On Sunday it will be at 2:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $35. Tickets were limited as of last Saturday, so reservations should be made now. Call Dr. Nathan Wight at 782-5876 or by E-mail at

“Merry Wives” is based on Shakespeare’s play, but it has been updated, according to Dr. Wight, who conducts the orchestra. The Bard probably wrote the work around 1602; this version is set in the1940s and sports a new twist.

Since 2003, The Jacksonville Opera Theatre has offered professionally staged operas to the public. It has been Dr. Wight’s goal to highlight the wealth of musical talent coming out of the music department. It has proved to be a good experience for everyone involved. Music faculty and staff direct and design the productions and students gain extra experience.

The experience here comes from learning new styles of singing. Operettas are more demanding than musical theater. They are harmonically more complex, said Dr. Wight. “Merry Wives” is light and easy to follow and to listen to, he added. The lines are sung most of the time, but at times the dialogue is spoken.

Jarrod Lee, who plays Sir John Falstaff, shares his thoughts on taking part in the operetta. “This is a funny production and very, very interesting,” Lee said at rehearsal last week. The orchestra rises to the occasion when Sir Falstaff, a big man, comes on with volume and zest. Sir Falstaff loves women, especially rich women.

“Trumpets, this is your moment.” Dr. Wight instructs them. Then, when the wives laugh, the instruments’ notes go into the higher register.

The children’s chorus (they are from Kitty Stone Elementary School) is an added element this year. “We are impressed with them,” Dr. Wight said. “And It’s a unique opportunity for them to be collegiate opera production.”

Peter Wilder, who is at the halfway mark in his third year at JSU, plays the lead tenor role. Fenton, his character, is in love with Ann (Haley Arrington). The feeling is mutual, but her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Page (Cody Harrell and Estefania Cuevas), have other suitors in mind for her. Fenton must plead his case.

Elizabethan theater was a vital, live, form of entertainment in its day. This operetta, spoken in English, fills that bill today. It is a realistic comedy. During this particular time in Shakespeare’s life his power of expression was expanding, according to texts. The Bard was especially interested in the character’s motives at this time and he lets them speak their whole nature.

If you like theater, you’ll enjoy “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. The set designers have made the best of a small space. Call now for reservations.

Bidikov at Vanderbilt

Chatting with Luke Bidikov over the holidays brought good news from this student at Vanderbilt. Luke, the son of Drs. Igor and Tatiana Bidikov of Jacksonville, is on the dean’s list there and a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. Luke is from a musical family and he says he will return, hopefully, to his viola one day, when time allows, but now he is hitting the books, constantly. Playing rugby for his fraternity may be a chosen recreation.

About Hervey Folsom

Hervey Folsom, an Anniston resident, writes "Down Art Avenue." Her column centers on those who contribute to the art world in any way, including musically. Hervey also contributes to The Anniston Star and is active in a number of civic organizations. She and her husband, Bob, are members of Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston. She can be reached via e-mail at

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