The Michigan State University College of Music will present Falstaff, an Elizabethan-era opera comedy, at Fairchild Theatre beginning Wednesday, March 22.
Conductor Katherine Kilburn said the opera follows the story of Sir John Falstaff in his foolish attempts to woo two married women for the sake of their husband’s fortunes. He is overconfident in his efforts, however, making for a “hilarious” comedy.
The opera was written by 19th-century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi and is based on the works of Shakespeare, Henry VI and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Verdi utilizes music throughout the opera to embellish the comedic aspect of the story, first-year doctoral student Paige Heidrich said. Verdi is “a master at creating chaos in the music,” which he accomplishes in Falstaff, she said.
“A lot of the music portrays the comedy with the beats of comedy timing, right? So things will happen, things will go by, and there's like a big break in the orchestra and one person will say something and it's hilarious,” Heidrich said.
Kilburn said Verdi also uses musical elements in his storytelling.
“You'll hear a tune and you'll say ‘Oh, I know this character is about to walk on stage, because I just heard that music with them in the last scene, and they must be coming on again,'" Kilburn said. "So there's musical themes, sort of themes that go with the characters."
Master’s student and principal oboist Emily Demski said that they will be using a condensed orchestra for the performance, which requires a lot of teamwork and some instrument-switching.
“It's teamwork in a different way. Just as the singers all have to work together, the orchestra, as well, has to do our small little parts for each other to make sure we all meet our meet our deadlines to get to our solos,” Demski said.
Falstaff is an Italian opera, meaning that many of the cast members had to learn to speak Italian. Prior experience with Italian isn’t a requirement for the audience, however, as the show will be accompanied by English supertitles. A screen above the stage will translate the words being sung.
Vocal performance junior Kevon Thompson, who plays the role of Bardolfo, said he relied on his fellow cast members to learn Italian.
“I've always been bad at languages, always throughout high school and everything, so I get frustrated very easily," Thompson said. "But when people were just saying, ‘Nah, you got it, just say it like this,’ I'm like, ‘Okay, I can actually do this ... At the end, it just feels very rewarding to see where you started and where you actually ended up.”
Kilburn said the cast members work as a family and seeing the show come to fruition is exciting.
Performances will run from Wednesday, March 22 to Sunday, March 26 at Fairchild Theatre. Tickets are free for students and $18 for the general public.
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