UI produces English language opera The Rivals

BY DORA GROTE | APRIL 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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From today through April 12, the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts will host The Rivals, a 2011 opera following the story of misguided deceptions among several sets of lovers and would-be lovers. The University of Iowa production also features mistaken identities, over-the-top lovers, and the immortally mangled English of Mrs. Malaprop.

Lisa Neher — a UI doctoral student in voice who will play the role of Mrs. Malaprop, the protagonist Lydia's aunt and guardian — said opera differs greatly from musical theater.

"One thing audience members will notice is that we sing every line in opera — although there are a few exceptions to this — while in musical theater, there is spoken dialogue between the songs," Neher said. "The other big difference is the style of singing. We opera singers don't use microphones to amplify our voices, so we maximize our own body's resonance in a distinctive way. You'll hear more vibrato in an opera singer typically and less use of the speech-like singing you get in musical theater and pop, because those sounds simply won't carry over an orchestra without a microphone."

Bill Theisen, stage director and choreographer of the production, said that the opera is accessible and entertaining to all ages.

"The best thing about The Rivals is that it's very funny," he said. "Not many composers are writing new comic operas these days, and I think Kirke Mechem has done a splendid job bringing this classical comedy to life with fresh, new, exciting and extremely assessable music. I promise you will leave the theater humming the tunes from this show. For anyone who has never seen an opera, I think The Rivals is a perfect introduction for audiences of all ages."

What makes The Rivals unique and more accessible to newer audiences, Neher said, is that it performed in English.

"A lot of the most popular [opera] works are in Italian, French, or German, so if you're new to the opera, this is a great first experience," Neher said. "It's also a comedy — Mrs. Malaprop in particular has some very silly lines, and there are some good bits of physical humor, too, so it is going to be a fun evening." 

The Rivals
When: Today, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m., and April 12 at 2 p.m.
Where: Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifthth St., 
Admission: $5 to $20

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