The Fresno State Opera Theatre will join forces with the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra to perform a full opera production of Johann Strauss II’s comic operetta “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) at 8 p.m. April 21 and 2 p.m. April 23 in the Concert Hall on campus.
More than 75 students are involved in the production of this classic Viennese opera, which will be presented in English with supertitles. “Die Fledermaus” takes the audience from parlor to masked ball to jail, all in three acts centering around the main characters masked at the Russian Prince’s ball.
Since “Die Fledermaus” is infused with the music of the Viennese Waltz, two professional dancers from Los Angeles – Erica Arnold and Artemi Okunev (pictured above) – will work with the students on their dancing. Arnold and Okunev will also dance during the two public performances.
“Die Fledermaus” is produced by opera professor Dr. Anthony Radford. Dr. Maria Briggs will direct the performers and Dr. Thomas Loewenheim will conduct the symphony. Choral preparation is done by Dr. Cari Earnhart and musical preparation is done by Andrew Quiring and Rebecca Messer.
“Performing in a full-scale opera is essential to a student’s development in the creative musical arts,” Radford said. “For most of them, this will be their first experience performing in a full-scale opera. The singers learn how to move on stage, while singing difficult music and acting, all the while collaborating with their fellow singers and instrumentalists. It is the most comprehensive and collaborative activity a music department can engage in.”
This production will also include the work of four Fresno State music faculty members, as well as collaborations with Theatre faculty and staff members – Elizabeth Payne, who will give students a makeup tutorial; Jeff Hunter, who has helped gather furniture and set pieces; and staff members Stephanie Bradshaw and Mike Hansen.
Dr. Maria Briggs and the Marianna Ensemble (Briggs on vocals and piano, Anna Savery on violin and Richard Savery on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet) will provide pre-show entertainment in the foyer outside the Concert Hall on the opening night.
The Fresno State Opera Theatre is the only organization in Fresno presenting opera on a large scale with full orchestration, singing and costumes. Tickets are $18 general, $12 for employees and seniors, and $8 for students and can be ordered online.
“Being involved in an opera production with full staging and orchestra is an experience like no other,” Briggs said. “It can teach students more about being singers, actors, dancers and musicians than several semesters of classes. Above all, it teaches them how to be a collaborative, decent person and a cultured, inspired human being.”