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Annual Hillman Opera to present pair of Puccini works
Thursday, November 08, 2012

Director Julie Newell

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The Hillman Opera will present a pair of works from Italian composer Giacomo Puccini in what will again be a production on a “truly grand scale.”

Four performances of “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi” will be presented from Nov. 8 to 11 in Marvel Theatre at SUNY Fredonia. More than 110 students will be involved in the production. The curtain time is 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, 9 and 10, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.
“A cast of 46 students bring these operas to life in the original Italian with English supertitles projected above the proscenium,” said Julie Newell, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching professor who is serving as producer for her 20th Hillman Opera. “With 30 students working backstage and another 40 student musicians in the Opera Orchestra, this is a production on a truly grand scale academically.”
“Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi” are both one-act operas from a group of Puccini compositions entitled “Il Trittico.”
“These operas represent the extreme breadth of Puccini’s compositional brilliance,” Newell said. “‘Suor Angelica’ is a miniature masterpiece, rich with sweeping and passionate vocal melodies which have made Puccini such a favorite. The opera tells the story of a wealthy young woman who bears a child out of wedlock. Her family sends her away from the child to a convent, where we first meet her. When a family member visits to tell her about her illegitimate child, she is torn by grief.”
Newell said the second work, “Gianni Schicchi,” is perhaps best known for its iconic aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” (“Oh, My Beloved Father”).
“A hilarious comedy, the audience is brought by the cast to the bedside of Buoso Donati, an old man with a lot of money and property. His relatives, while mourning his impending passing, are obsessed with his will and who may be named as the greatest beneficiary,” she said. “The audience will be drawn to tears by ‘Suor Angelica’ then ride an emotional roller coaster being swept by laughter by the maneuverings of ‘Gianni Schicchi’.”
The set that will be used for the two works was especially designed for the Chautauqua Opera.
Joining Newell to provide the artistic direction of the production are Dr. James Ivey, of the Department of Theatre and Dance, as stage director and Dr. David Rudge, of the School of Music, leading the Opera Orchestra. Music faculty member Shinobu Takagi serves as vocal coach and accompanist and Theatre and Dance faculty member Laurel Walford oversees the costume design. Kyle Sackett, a graduate of the School of Music, serves as the chorus master.
“The annual Hillman Opera is a unique endeavor nationally, representing the best of the collaborative spirit,” Newell said. “It is sponsored by the Hillman Memorial Music Association and its community-based board of directors who work together with the faculty and students of both the School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Dance to create an enormous and extremely exciting event.”
Alumni of the Hillman Opera, which will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary of presenting opera annually at SUNY Fredonia, have performed in major opera houses all over the world. Technical students graduate to work for major operatic houses as well, all based upon the professional level
experience they gain as students at Fredonia.


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