Riding high on the success of its inaugural full opera production last year of “H.M.S. Pinafore,” the Nevada Chamber Opera is hard at work rehearsing its second complete opera, Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” (The Bat). One of the most-often performed operas in North America, the operetta promises a light-hearted romp through a quagmire of friendship, love, revenge and desire, performed at Nightingale Concert Hall Nov. 20-22.
Headed by Artistic Director Damon Stevens and directed by Sue Klemp, “Die Fledermaus” is the story of Dr. Falke, performed by Kiet Cao, abandoned drunk, lost and dressed as a bat, by his friend Gabriel von Eisenstein, sung by Adam Machart, after a night of carousing. A vengeful Falke later arranges for von Eisenstein to attend a masked ball at the home of the perpetually bored Russian aristocrat, Prince Orlofsky, played by Stephanie Dixon. There, von Eisenstein seduces a mysterious Hungarian countess, who is actually his own wife, Rosalinda, performed by Jasmine Hinchman. Confusion ensues, but dancing and drinking ease misunderstandings and they all join in a rousing chorus in honor of champagne.
Stephens said “Die Fledermaus” is sung in English, loaded with familiar tunes, and full of situations students can relate to.
“Opera has a bad rap for being hoity-toity and out of reach,” Stevens said. ‘“Die Fledermaus” shows the human condition hasn’t changed. People still drink too much, gamble, flirt with people they shouldn’t and don’t pay their taxes.”
Participating in opera is valuable to performing arts majors because it encompasses acting, dancing and singing, although Stephens said Nevada Chamber Opera productions draw people from all majors to sing in the chorus. Students also build sets and work on lighting as well as perform. Fall semester students mount a large production and spring semester students perform two smaller productions.
University Director of Dance, Barbara Land, said voice students today have to be able to move, act and sing in order to be more marketable. For “Die Fledermaus,” she brought in nationally ranked ballroom dancers Jeffrey Wallace and Schonett Young, both of Reno, to coach the cast in the waltz.
“It’s the first time we’ve brought in guest dancers,” Stephens said. “It gives our production some authenticity.”
Adam Machart, a senior majoring in voice at the University, said he never expected he’d be performing opera. His first performance in musical theater was during his senior year at Carson High School. Wanting to pursue a career in theater and television, he said he surprised himself by singing opera.
“I said, ‘why am I doing this? Opera isn’t cool,” he laughed. “The first time I did it, I was like ‘whoa – that felt really good.”
Machart was invited to audition for the master’s in music program at Indiana University, which is tied for top honors with The Julliard School of Dance, Drama and Music by U.S. News and World Report. After attending summer workshops at other, larger schools, he said performing with the Nevada Chamber Opera. Opera helps students understand what goes into a production to make it excel because the entire cast rehearses and works together at all times, unlike larger departments that rehearse in sections.
“We’re getting more experience here than students at bigger schools get,” he said. “We’re learning everything together, and it really helps with chemistry on the set.”
Therese Curatolo, a graduate student at the University who sings the role of Adele, Rosalinda’s chamber maid, recently made her debut with the Nevada Opera’s production of “Carmen.” She credits her own hard work and the relationships she developed at the University for her success.
“It was incredible for a brand new graduate student to sing with professional opera singers,” she said. “The faculty and staff have guided me and shaped me into the singer I am today. But regardless of where you get your training, what you put in is what you’ll get out.”
Curatolo said rehearsing with a professional opera company was completely different than rehearsing at school.
“You were there to work, not to be in class” she said of her experience. “I got to work with people who’ve sung at the Metropolitan Opera House and develop a rapport with some incredibly talented singers.”
“Die Fledermaus” opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, in the Nightingale Concert Hall, with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22.
Tickets are available online at the School of Arts or by calling 1-(800) 225-2277.
For more information about the Nevada Chamber Opera, call (775) 784-4278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.