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Jay Lesenger to Direct 'The Merry Widow' and 'The Consul'

January 28, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The winter production of Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow" and the spring performances of Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Consul" will complete the 2008-09 opera season at Northwestern University's Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music.

In addition to being directed by Jay Lesenger, the Bienen School's new director of opera and professor of voice, both operas will feature the school's student singers and will be held in Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, on the University's Evanston campus.

Lesenger, who also is general and artistic director of the Chautauqua Opera in New York, will direct four performances of "The Merry Widow" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28; and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1. It's the first full-length Bienen School production that he will direct.

Lehar's popular operetta tells the story of the wealthy Count Danilo, whose family has forbidden him to marry the beautiful but impoverished barmaid Hanna, even though they adore each other. When circumstances make Hanna the richest widow in Petrovenia, the Count can't admit that he still loves her for fear that she would think he is only interested in her new fortune. What's a "Merry Widow" to do? Lehar's melodies of Paris in 1905 evoke a world of French can-can dancers, champagne and the waltz. Jerome Shannon, music director and principal conductor of Florida's Pensacola Opera, will conduct the orchestra. The set design is by Peter Harrison, whose opera credits include productions at the Juilliard School, New York City Opera, Chautauqua Opera and the Manhattan School of Music. The "Merry Widow" production will be performed in an English translation by renowned American lyricist and composer and Northwestern alumnus Sheldon Harnick. Tickets are $18 for the general public; $15 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

Two spring 2009 performances of the "The Consul," scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, will mark the first time the opera has been presented at Northwestern. Award-winning conductor Joel Revzen, who holds the dual posts of artistic director and principal conductor of the Arizona Opera, a company that produces opera throughout the state, will conduct Lesenger's production.

Menotti composed the suspenseful score of "The Consul" -- his first full-length opera -- in 1950 to his own libretto. This thriller focuses on Magda Sorel, a woman trapped by borders and politics. Her husband's activities in the resistance have brought the secret police to her door, and she must free her family from the state's suffocating oppression. Her only hope is to obtain a visa, all too rarely granted, from the consul of a neighboring country. Set in an unidentified European totalitarian nation, this tale of repression and fear remains as pertinent as ever in today's world. When "The Consul" opened on Broadway in 1950, it established Menotti as a great man of the lyric theater, winning both the Pulitzer Prize for music and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best musical. It will be performed in English and is made possible by arrangement with G. Schirmer, Inc., publisher and copyright owner. Tickets are $18 for the general public; $15 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

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.
Topics: Campus Life