The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Comic opera combines song, theatre

    Music and theatre may be two separate departments academically, but on occasion they come together.

    Pirates of Penzance
    Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, and Feb. 27 to March 1. 1:30 p.m. March 2.
    Place: Gantner Concert Hall, Haas Fine Arts Center.
    Cost: $10 public; $8 for 62 and older; $7 for 17 and younger and UW-Eau Claire faculty/staff; and $6 for Eau Claire students.

    “Pirates of Penzance,” a comic opera directed by associate professor of music Robert Knight, tells the story of Fredric, a young pirate apprentice, played by senior Rick Cedergren.

    The two other main characters are senior Jacqueline Cobian, who plays Fredric’s love interest, Mabel; and freshman Steve Davis, who plays Major General Stanley, Mabel’s father.

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    There are challenges when incorportating music and lyrics into a play.

    “I have found that operas are a lot more difficult because much of the show is sung,” Davis said. “Therefore, you have to be very articulate for the audience to understand what is going on.

    “Also, since most of the speaking parts are sung, you have to make sure that you sing the part as you would say it.”

    Time is of the essence in these comic-operas.

    “With music involved, opera takes much longer to deliver a message than a play,” Knight said. “An opera tends to go from highlight to highlight in a plot with little ‘down time’ because of the need to accommodate the music.”

    Music is not the only addition an opera brings to a dramatic play and not the only challenge, either.

    “A lot ofÿactors say that ‘dying is easy;ÿcomedy is hard,'” Cobian said. “Comedy takes a lot of carefulÿcoordination and planning during rehearsal, and thenÿyouÿhave to make itÿlook spontaneous and natural during performance.”

    For Cobian, the transformation is the most amazing thing.

    “(It) start(s) with a script and a few ideas, and you practice night after night in a dusty, bare theatre,” she said. “And then you see the costumes for the first time and hear the orchestra play the overture, and watch the people around you change from college students into pirates and Victorian maidens and old men.”

    As a director, Knight said his job is similar to coordinating a team of professionals, as if he is a head coach of a football team.

    “Once the team is assembled, the director starts by outlining a vision for the show and the various designers use that vision to help them create their designs,” Knight said. “It is only by working together as a team that we can reach the goal of an entertaining and successful production.”

    Along with the hard work and dedication it takes to put together such an elaborate performance, the rewarding experience comes afterward, Knight said.

    “The greatest reward I find (in) being a director is to get to be creative with the cast,” he said. “To go beyond the written word or notes in the music to bring … the entire show alive for the audience; to use both the familiar and the new in ways to delight and amuse – that is the greatest reward.”

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