Saturday, April 01, 2000

Miami to present comic opera Albert Herring this weekend

Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — It's not easy to stage opera, the art form that French arts critic Saint-Evremond once called “a bizarre affair made up of poetry and music.”

        “Opera is in many ways the most challenging of artistic products, since it's a total union of the arts,” said Pamela Fox, Dean of Miami Universi ty's School of Fine Arts. “It combines design, acting, singing, lighting, poetry and libretto.”

        This weekend, Miami is taking on that challenge, producing Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring, a comic opera set in 1900 in a fictional English market town.

        There are many roles for young people. The plot centers around Albert, a virtuous young man elected May King by his community. Trou bled by his goody-two-shoes image, Albert decides to push the envelope.

        “Albert Herring is in English, and it's doable,” said artistic director Mari Opatz-Muni.

        “When you select an opera there are a number of considerations, especially for a small program like ours,“ said Judith Delzell, chairwoman of Miami's music department. “Do you have the voices to sing the roles? Do you have an orchestra that can play it? What's the overall aesthetic value?”

        In contrast with powerhouse artistic training institutions such as University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, Miami's artistic mission is grounded within the university's commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education.

        CCM produces two full opera productions each year, plus several smaller ones. With its theater design, lighting design and costume and makeup design faculties, there is full technical support for the major productions. The departments are preparing to stage Rossini's recently discovered opera, Voyage to Reims, in early May.

        Because Miami's Hall Auditorium is used for so many other campus performances, there's no time to build sets for the annual opera production. To give Albert a professional look, Ms. Opatz-Muni rented sets from an opera company in Michigan.

        Miami University's production of Britten's Albert Herring is 8 p.m. today in Miami University's Hall Auditorium in Oxford. Admission: $10 for adults; $5 for students and senior citizens. Tickets available at the door.


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