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University of Louisville Opera Theatre: An International Marriage — A Unique Opera Exchange between the University of Louisville and a Polish Conservatory
When it comes to a Mozart opera, the complicated plans of the characters are a tea party compared to the actual execution of a stage production. Throw in two casts at two schools separated by an ocean, and you can begin to guess the challenges faced by the University of Louisville Opera Theatre as they mount a collaborative production of Le nozze di Figaro with the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland.
In mid-October 2007, nine Polish voice students from Katowice will travel to Louisville for a one-month stay to rehearse and perform the opera with students from the University of Louisville School of Music. In January 2008, University of Louisville students will travel to Katowice, Poland to perform the production. The University of Louisville School of Music has a special "sister institution" relationship with the Karol Szymanowski Academy, a long-standing exchange program that was formalized in 2003.
Kelly Ballou, the American soprano singing the role of Susanna, is ecstatic. "It's such a fantastic opportunity to be involved with an opera program at this level."
"To sing Le nozze de Figaro in its original Italian at our age in this country is substantial," explains Nathan Wilson, a recent graduate of the University of Louisville Opera Theatre program, "but to have the chance to then take the production to Europe is immense."
Work on the opera collaboration began in 2005. Kimcherie Lloyd, director of orchestra and opera at University of Louisville and director of music for Kentucky Opera, says, "We've talked about things for so long, it's fun to finally see all the plans working out." From auditions to rehearsals to costume fittings, the various components are slowly coming together.
The production will be sung in Italian (a language foreign to both casts), with the final pairings of the cast not decided until after at least a week of rehearsals in Louisville. All the production elements will be designed and built in Louisville, supervised by Michael Ramach, stage director of the University of Louisville Opera Theatre, who will also direct the production. Sets, props, and costumes will be transported to Poland and back by Louisville-based UPS. The local student chorus and orchestra will join the production in each venue. Both productions will be conducted by Lloyd.
Lloyd says Figaro was a natural pick because of its long and successful history in the operatic repertoire and number of roles available to young singers. Lloyd has conducted Figaro many times before but says, "It's different every time. Every cast brings something fresh to the table."
"It's certainly challenging to do a bi-continental production, where most of the preparation has to be done long-distance," said Ramach. "But with technology, it's really becoming an even smaller world."
From communications to plastics, obstacles are overcome daily with the latest technological innovations. High-quality DVD recordings, Webcams, and voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) have come in handy with international auditions and rehearsals. Sets that can be rolled up, sleeved, and shipped by jet were made possible through newer materials.
Ramach, who has directed more than 250 productions of operas and plays, says Le nozze di Figaro is his favorite opera. "It's a really great dramatic work, and it still makes people laugh, even after all these years. No matter what their age or nationality, audiences will not be disappointed."
The Louisville performances of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro will take place November 9 and 11 at the Kentucky Center Bomhard Theatre. Tickets will be on sale at the Kentucky Center box office as of August 15. For more information, call 502-852-6907.
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