Students perform operas with acclaimed pianist


A night full of comedy, sorrow, star-crossed lovers, and dead bodies might seem unusual to some, but it’s just another night at the opera.  This weekend, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Opera Workshop will be performing “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi,” both one-act operas by Giacomo Puccinni.

     These operas are based on Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Both operas are from Puccini’s group of three operas: “Il trittico,” each opera holding contrasting themes. “Suor Angelica” is an all-female comedic opera. “Gianni Schicchi” is also a comedy which was highly popular after its first performance in 1918.

     “[Puccinni] embraces the idea of operatic realism much more than composers before him,” said sophomore music major Peter Heid, who will be performing this weekend.

     The UWSP Opera Workshop has been working on the operas since before spring break and have been holding rehearsals ever since under the direction of Susan Bender and Dennis Willhoit. Bender and Willhoit are both faculty members at the UWSP Music Department.

     “The cast works really well together and we always have a blast at rehearsals,” said Heid. “We have all been working very hard outside of the required rehearsal times to make this a great performance.”

     Acclaimed pianist Jeffrey Watson will be accompanying the performances. Watson has a piano performance degree from DePauw University and has performed with the Honduran National Symphony, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, and was an associate conductor for the Kennedy Center’s award-winning production of “Sunday in the Park with George.”  

     “His piano skills are phenomenal; it is very easy to feed off of his energy while he plays.  He brings the cast to a new level,” Heid said.

     The operas were originally written in Italian, but this weekend they will be performed in English so more people will be able to understand and enjoy them. “Students will not be disappointed if they come see “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi,” said Heid. “Opera is an art form that is so beautiful and personal.”

     The UWSP Opera Workshop’s performances of “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi” will be at Michelson Hall on April 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.


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