Students stage powerful Italian opera

February 10, 2012

Opera word cloudA story of lust, power, desire and conspiracy comes to life as the UW-Whitewater Theatre/Dance and Music departments present an Italian opera, "The Coronation of Poppea."

It will be performed at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 and at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, and March 1 and 3 in Barnett Theatre in the Greenhill Center of the Arts.

Today's modern-day soap operas may seem tame compared to this operatic adventure. Performed in English, the opera tells the story of the Roman Emperor Nero and his mistress, Poppea. Before Poppea can be crowned empress, Nero needs to get rid of his current wife, Ottavia, who wishes to protect her powerful position. Will Nero be able to install Poppea as his new empress, or will the jealous Ottavia prevail?

"The show is about lust. Lust for sex, lust for power, lust for knowledge, etc..."  said Jim Butchart, stage director.

Butchart and music director Robert Gehrenbeck have modernized "The Coronation of Poppea," one of the earliest operas written, to make the story clear and accessible to today's audience.

The orchestra was updated and includes the use of electric guitars, strings and a harpsichord.

"When this opera was written, composers were creating music that depicted strong emotions," Gehrenbeck said.  "Audiences will hear the electric guitar sound coincide with moments of agitation on stage, and there are a lot of those moments."

Presenting an opera is a tradition that happens every three years at UW-Whitewater.

"Performing in the opera gives the music students a chance to develop their acting and stage presence, while it provides the theater students experience in music.  And for vocal majors who pursue a graduate degree, opera experience is needed," Gehrenbeck said.

The cast includes UW-Whitewater students Jennifer Samson, Hannah Keeffe, Cortney Netzel, Christopher Tate, Gustavo Chaviano, Will Krieger, Ariel Wilberg, Jacob Oxley, Kristin Kasper, Rachel Gorecki, Jamie Hollenberger, Ryan White, Mary Vey, Emily Roach, Megan Kell, Ben Riddle, Jennalee Brummel, Makenna Parish-Day and Theresa Beaudry.  The design team includes UW-Whitewater faculty members Eric Appleton, scenic design; Marshall Anderson, costume design and Stephen Chené, lighting design.  The stage management team includes UW-Whitewater students Elizabeth Marks, stage manager and Allisa Krantz and Christine Versman, assistant stage managers.

Tickets are available at the Greenhill Center Box Office Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. or by phone at 262-472-2222.  Tickets may also be purchased the night of the performance, beginning one hour prior to curtain.  Single tickets for each production are $12 for the general public, $10 for those over 65, $7.50 for those under 18, and $5.00 for UW-Whitewater students with a valid ID.


Sara Kuhl