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Published: Thursday, 11/8/2012

Opera returns to UT this weekend in 'The Medium'

BY SALLY VALLONGO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini, University of Toledo professor of  voice and director of UT Opera. Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini, University of Toledo professor of voice and director of UT Opera.
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Opera is in the air at area universities -- in one case, an actual revival of a program that is boosting interest and enrollment. For opera lovers, these productions, student performed with faculty direction, greatly expand opportunities to see live performances which might never be presented by a professional company such as the Toledo Opera.

Last weekend, Bowling Green State University presented its updated and augmented production of the 17th century tragedy Dido and Aeneas in the Donnell Theatre of the new Wolfe Center for the Arts.

Stage director Sean Cooper (Colline in the Toledo Opera's recent La Boheme), set the action in 2012, and, while taking reasonable liberties with story and music, neither betrayed the intent of the original story or the haunting and powerful musical score created by English composer Henry Purcell in the late 1680s.

Cooper tapped today's bullying issues as the springboard for stage action, and added music from another Purcell operas to further develop his social message and expand vocal opportunities.

Although the singing varied in quality, the performances were surprisingly polished and convincing, with excellent musical support from a small orchestra conducted by Emily Freeman Brown, with the exceptional keyboard work of Kevin Bylsma.

Now, the University of Toledo has announced its return to opera productions with this weekend's performances of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium in the UT Center for Performing Arts Studio Theatre.

The production, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, is a departmental collaboration with Cornel Gabara as stage director.

Assistant professor and new director of the program Denise Ritter Bernardini said she chose the opera because "I wanted something that was very accessible to the audience, something fun that even people who are new to opera would enjoy. And something that would showcase the talents of our graduate students."

Written in the 1940s by Menotti -- he also wrote the text -- the story tells an absurdist tale of a dishonest medium, a faked seance, and its very real and tragic consequences. Opening for the Menotti work will be a selection of macabre opera classics.

Already, UT's decision to reinstate opera is bearing fruit: "Since we announced that we were doing a full opera, enrollment in UT Opera has tripled," said Ritter Bernardini.

Admission is a suggested donation of $10. Seating is limited; for reservations, call 419-530-2448.

Also happening at UT on Saturday and Sunday will be a residency by pianist Mary Towse-Beck, the second event in the Dorothy MacKenzie Price Piano Series. A free recital will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday in the CPA Recital Hall. On the program will be music by Schubert, Beethoven, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff.

Towse-Beck operates a nonprofit music program for young musicians and maintains a large private studio as well as a busy performance schedule. She studied at the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University and has been a featured artist on NPR and on Australian national radio.

The pianist will lead a free public master class at 10 a.m. Saturday in the recital hall.

The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series continues with the Met premiere of Thomas Ades' 2003 work The Tempest in a 12:55 p.m. screening Saturday at Rave Cinemas Franklin Park and Fallen Timbers. Based on the Shakespearean tale of power and magic, in a production by Robert LePage (remember the Ring Cycle), the production stars Simon Keenlyside as Prospero and will be conducted by the composer. Tickets are $22-$24 at the box office. An encore screening will be Nov. 28.

If you missed another Met production based on Shakespearean drama, you can catch Verdi's Otello at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the same venues.

The Cathedral Music Series at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, 2535 Collingwood Blvd., will continue on Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. performance by Scottish organist Douglas Bruce. On the program will be Prelude and Fugue in G major by J.S. Bach, Prelude and Fugue on the name B.A.C.H. by Franz Liszt, and Sonata in D minor by Alexandre Guilmant.

Bruce studied organ and achieved advanced certification while preparing for a career in finance. Since 2001, when he left that left-brain world, he has continued studying, performing, and touring. He has been the organist at a church in Basel, Switzerland, since 2009.

Admission is free.

The Children's Choir of Northwest Ohio will sing some stories at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Main branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

The Toledo School for the Arts will showcase some of its classical music talent in a chamber music recital at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Trinity Episcopal Church downtown.

The Toledo Piano Teachers Association will hold its next meeting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. Andrews United Methodist Church, 3629 Heatherdowns Blvd. Heidi Clausius will present a program titled Teaching the Music of Haydn and Mozart. The meeting is free to the public.

The Choraliers, a venerable Oregon chorus, is seeking serious singers for its Christmas program in December and a spring concert in May. Practices are held at Fassett Junior High School, and profits from events go to support high school seniors entering any school for the arts. For information, call Vicky Cubberly, 419-693-7542.

Bring in the Divas, say members of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra, which will present a concert of music made famous by divas from many musical styles. Appearing in the 8 p.m. Saturday concert will be vocalist Helen Welch. John Thomas Dodson will conduct the program about which he says, "This pops orchestra concert will cover everything from famous movie hits to Top 40, From 'Fever,' 'Misty,' and 'Over the Rainbow' to 'Natural Woman,' 'Evergreen,' and 'Wind Beneath My Wings.'" Tickets are $10-$25 at 517-264-3121 or www.adriansymphony.org.

Items for News of Music should be sent to svallongo@theblade.com at least two weeks ahead of the event.



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