A rare intersection of music, film, dance and language runs Friday-Sunday, April 11-13 in the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater when CSULB’s Opera Institute raises the curtain on Claudio Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo.”
CSULB’s College of the Arts joins forces with the Department of Music and the Opera Institute for those three days to present the historic production sung in Italian with English supertitles. Admission is $25 or $15 for students with valid ID.
The pioneering opera will be performed at 8 p.m. on April 11, at 4 and 8 p.m. on April 12 and at 4 p.m. on April 13. A “Meet the Artists” reception sponsored by the Graziadio Center for Italian Studies will be held on April 12, following the 8 p.m. performance.
Events accompanying the production will include several lectures sponsored by the Medieval-Renaissance Studies Center including UCSB’s William Prizer on “The Mantua of `L’Orfeo,’” Ivan Schulman on “The Castrato Singer,” as well as UCLA’s Shane Butler on “Why Did Orpheus Look Back?” on March 10, sponsored by the Graziadio Center. A panel titled “Producing ‘Orfeo,’” featuring Music’s David Anglin and Thor Steingraber with members of the cast and orchestra will be held on Monday, April 7, at 3 p.m. in the Gerald R. Daniel Recital Hall. Music’s Kristine Forney is teaching a class in connection with the production under the title “To Hell and Back: The Orpheus Myth and Early Opera.”
“`L’Orfeo’ is considered by many to be the first opera,” said Anglin, who joined the university in 2005. “It is certainly one of the earliest operas to remain in the standard repertoire. I’m especially pleased with our collaboration with the Dance Department and that the work will be performed in the Martha B. Knoebel Theater, which is a gorgeous space. This production will use all the resources in the Opera Institute.”
The mission of the Opera Institute is to cultivate operatic singers by recruiting the finest young artists and providing them with full-tuition scholarships. Internationally renowned coaches and directors produce performances of quality on top sets, in top costumes and under expert lighting. Alumni include such stars as Arlene Auger and Marvellee Cariaga and young singers currently serving internships at major opera companies across the country.
The Opera Institute is unique within a major institution because undergraduate students have the opportunity to perform leading roles, Anglin explained. “It is not uncommon for outstanding singers at other universities to go through four years of university without being cast in a starring role,” he said.
“From a historical point of view, it is a terribly important opera,” said Forney, who joined the university in 1978 and teaches the accompanying class. She points with pride to the March 19 screening of the 1959 Brazilian film “Black Orpheus” in the Gerald R. Daniel Recital Hall with an introduction by Carlo Chiarenza of the Graziadio Center. "Even though there are companies that perform his opera, it is still very much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it here,” she said. “Even those who have seen it once rarely have a chance to see it again. This is their opportunity. “The Opera Institute has voice faculty, many of whom have sung at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, the San Francisco Opera and the LA Opera. Past productions include “The Marriage of Figaro,” “The Medium,” “Dido and Aeneas,” “The Impresario,” “La Calisto,” “Don Pasquale,” “Signore Deluso” and “Die Fledermaus.”
CSULB’s choral ensembles have performed in Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, China, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and Florida. They have been invited to perform for four national conventions of the American Choral Director’s Association as well as for the Music Educator’s National Convention and the World Conference on Choral Music in Amsterdam.