•  ()
  •  ()
  • Print this Story
  • Email this Story

Bienen School of Music's 2008-09 Opera Season Begins Nov. 15

text size AAA
October 21, 2008 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will launch its 2008-09 opera season with new Director of Opera and Professor of Voice Jay Lesenger directing an evening of opera scenes in the fall as well as full productions of "The Merry Widow" this winter and "The Consul" this spring. In addition, renowned opera stars Denyce Graves and Susan Graham will each present a master class that will be open to the public.

Lesenger, who joined the faculty of the Bienen School of Music this fall, brings with him 30 years of stage directing experience. As artistic and general director of Chautauqua Opera in New York since the 1995 season, Lesenger has directed 40 productions for the company. Nationally recognized as a teacher of acting for singers, he was an associate professor of music at the University of Michigan for five years, where he directed the School of Music Opera Theatre. Lesenger also has an international reputation, recognized for his opera productions throughout the United States and Europe.

The following opera events will be held at the Evanston campus at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive; Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place; and Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., as indicated below.

Lesenger will direct graduate students from the Bienen School of Music's voice and opera program as they perform scenes from celebrated operas during "An Evening of Opera Scenes" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, in Lutkin Hall. Admission is free.

Northwestern's Bienen School of Music will welcome mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves to Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, when she will give a master class to pre-selected student vocalists. Graves has gathered popular and critical acclaim throughout four continents, and her superstardom has led her to perform at the world's eminent opera houses and concert halls. Tickets are $7 for the general public; $5 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $4 for full-time students with valid identification.

Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will give a master class at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Graham has sung lead roles in many of the world's most prominent opera houses and appeared with leading conductors and orchestras. An expert in French music, Graham enchants her audiences with her expressive voice and engaging acting. Tickets are $7 for the general public; $5 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $4 for full-time students with valid identification.

"The Merry Widow," directed by Lesenger, conducted by Jerome Shannon and using an English translation by Northwestern alumnus Sheldon Harnick, will be the first full-stage production of Northwestern's opera season. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 26 through 28, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1, in Cahn Auditorium. Franz Lehar's operetta tells the story of wealthy Count Danilo, who has been forbidden by his family to marry the beautiful but impoverished barmaid Hanna, even though they adore each other. When circumstance makes Hanna the richest widow in Petrovenia, the Count cannot admit that he still loves her for fear that she would think he is only interested in her new fortune. Lehar's melodies transport the audience back to Paris in 1905 and a world of "Can-Can" girls, champagne and the waltz. Tickets are $18 for the general public; $15 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for full-time students with valid identification.

Performances of Gian Carlo Menotti's first full-length opera, "The Consul," directed by Lesenger and conducted by Joel Revzen, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, in Cahn Auditorium. Menotti's nightmare-thriller was composed in 1950 to his own libretto. Against a dark and intensely suspenseful score, the story of the political dissident John and his wife, Magda, unfolds. Set in an unidentified totalitarian nation in Europe, John has fled the country to preserve his own life and urges Magda, their baby and John's mother to join him. At the consulate, repeatedly frustrated in her efforts to obtain a visa or speak with the consul, Magda falls into despair, foreshadowing a tragic finale when John returns for her. It will be performed in English. Tickets are $18 for the general public; $15 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for full-time students with valid identification.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit the Pick-Staiger Web site at http://www.pickstaiger.org. To order tickets by phone, call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000.