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IU's Opera Theater
By Rod King
Fort Wayne Reader
Lights dim, the auditorium becomes hushed, the five-story tall purple curtain rises, stage lights reveal an elaborate set as the orchestra smoothly starts the overture and elegantly attired cast members filter onto the set. At the appropriate moment, the ensemble breaks into
a powerful chorus. English subtitles flash above the stage.
A performance at the venerable Metropolitan Opera or the New York City Opera? Perhaps the Brooklyn Opera House, Santa Fe Opera or the Lyric Opera of Chicago?
Actually, none of the above. It's the Indiana University Opera Theater in Bloomington, right here in Hoosierland. And all the performers and musicians are IU students.
Though the opera program is certainly one of Indiana's real cultural treasures and a venue where audiences can see tomorrow's opera stars today, with the exception of Bloomington area residents, IU students and graduates, it may be better known outside the state.
The New York Times reported: "Indiana University's School of Music has an especially distinguished record of achievement in opera." The paper also stated: "An orchestra as good as most professional groups in the county. The cast's singing and acting cannot be overpraised." "A consistently professional standard of which any opera house in the world could be proud," says the "Chicago Tribune." "Newsweek" wrote, "serious music in America is being well tended in the Indiana countryside."
The beginning of IU's opera program coincides with the opening of the Musical Arts Center (MAC) in 1972. The facility was designed specifically to accommodate the huge, elaborate sets, scene shop and rehearsal halls. Four large sets can be rolled in from the wings and rear of the stage, and the MAC is considered to be right up there alongside the Metropolitan Opera (MET) as the best equipped opera theater in the country.
IU's opera outbuilds the MET two to one, operates the longest running opera in the Western Hemisphere and mounts six new productions every year. Performances are presented nearly every Friday and Saturday evening throughout the academic year, plus several in the summer. The MAC accommodates 1450 people and is characterized as being an "intimate" hall. Since it's only 80 feet deep from the edge of the curtain to the back of the auditorium, every seat affords a great view, and the 35 acoustical disks suspended from the ceiling assure audiences never miss a single
word or note.
Dr. Mark Clark, production director and teacher of opera production, says "the MAC is an exciting place to work." He was a part of the cast of the school's initial production...La Boheme. "Everything is done in-house," says Clark. "All the sets are designed and constructed right here by our three full-time staff carpenters."
In order to give the maximum number of students the opportunity to be involved in a production (as many as 90 at a time), shows are double-cast. In other words cast A does the first performance followed by cast B with no drop in quality. Kind of like having two first teams.
This season's remaining productions include The Wedding, February 1, 2, 8; The Marriage of Figaro, February 22, 23, 29 and March 1; and The Tales of Hoffmann, April 4, 5, 11, 12. For additional information call the box office at 1-812-855-7433 or look up the opera on-line at www.music.indiana.edu.