From all over the country, singers have converged on the Capitol Theatre to put together Utah Opera's "Die Fledermaus," thus ending the 1988-89 season with a comic confection by Vienna's Waltz King. Performances will be on May 11, 13, 15 and 18 at 8 p.m., with a May 21 matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets ranging from $10-$30 are now on sale in the Utah Opera box office in the Capitol Theatre from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Senior citizens and students may purchase Sunday matinee tickets in the $10-$20 range for half price.An instantaneous success in 1870 when waltzhood was in flower, "The Bat" has hardly left the boards in nearly 120 years.
The plot of Johann Strauss Jr.'s melodious masterpiece, formed in classic Balkan operetta style, surrounds an elaborate practical joke with flirtation and folly, disguise and deception, comic antics and farcical situations, and above all, with ravishing music.
The Viennese home of Gabriel von Eisenstein (Ron Raines) and his wife Rosalinda (Pamela Kucenic) is thrown into confusion by the arrival of the quintessential operatic tenor, Alfred (Glade Peterson), and that great kidder, Dr. Falke (Mark Pedrotti). The stuttering lawyer, Blind (Greg Griffiths); the drunken jailer, Frosch (Woody Romoff); and Frank, the prison governor (William Goeglein), add to the complications.
Soon all repair to a titillating masked ball, given by the decadent Prince Orlofsky (David Rae Smith), with Utah sopranos Debbie Mitchell and Susan Deauvono alternating as the frolicsome maid, Adele.
Jack Eddleman returns to Utah Opera to direct "Die Fledermaus," after successful outings here in "Turandot" and "The Magic Flute." Eddleman's many talents have been showcased over the years as an actor, singer, dancer, makeup artist, stage director, choreographer and teacher. He has appeared at Lincoln Center, New York City Center and off-Broadway and worked with such national opera companies as Cincinnati, Kansas City, Houston, Boston and Portland. Choreography will be by Stephanie Hall, costumes by Susan Memmott Allred and lighting byKay Barrell.
Paul Nadler, who will conduct the Utah Symphony and singers, has led productions of the opera companies of Memphis, Minnesota, Eugene and Omaha, in addition to tours of Bulgaria and the Far East. Among many credits, Nadler founded and conducted the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and has conducted the symphony orchestras of Bucharest, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Ron Raines returns after his success here opposite Roberta Peters in "The Merry Widow." Equally adept at operetta and opera, the personable leading man's myriad credits include "Showboat," "The Desert Song" and a dozen such operettas, including "The Merry Widow" and "The Duchess of Gerolstein" at New York City Opera. He has sung with the opera companies of Houston, Dallas, San Francisco (Spring), Chatauqua, Colorado, Santa Fe, Tulsa, Omaha and St. Louis, plus the symphonies of Minneapolis, Omaha and Rochester.
Baritone Mark Pedrotti, a New Zealander and adopted Canadian, has sung with Chattanooga, North Carolina and Knoxville operas, also Ottawa, Edmonton and Manitoba operas, and in oratorio and/or symphonic solo with the Winnipeg, Vancouver Chamber, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo, Montreal and Calgary symphonies. Upcoming are oratorios with Helmut Rilling and appearances with Boston Symphony and Washington and Vancouver operas. Utahns may recall Pedrotti's appearance here in the "Messiah" of 1987.
As Rosalinda, Utah Opera brings a rising young star whose engagements take her frequently to the Orient and South America and increasingly throughout the United States.
Pamela Kucenic finds Rosalinda a challenge, because she's more accustomed to the sustained lines and more heroic natures of the Verdi-Puccini heroines. "I have found a grand vocal line, and I don't usually jump around this much," laughed the soprano. "I find you can be very moving if you understand the text,believe the words and just let them emerge."
Kucenic considers herself a self-made singer, in the sense that she has never had money or influence behind her. "My father had this great tenor voice but no connections, no musical guidance," she said.
She did have good piano lessons from a teacher in her hometown, Greenberg, Pa., who suggested the possibility of a concert career. "But I looked at that keyboard and I said, not this," she laughed. "At 15, I saw Tebaldi in the filmed `Aida,' and I knew that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
However, "Aida" lay far down the road. At Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, she was cast as a mezzo-contralto, because of her rich quality and ability to read music. "But something inside kept saying, `No, dear, you should be singing Verdi, Puccini,' " she said.
At a workshop in Aspen, Colo., she had her first career break when she met Elemer Nagy, wizard of the opera department at Hartt College in Hartford, Conn., who persuaded her to go there for graduate work. "My voice changed radically at Hartt," she said. "And besides singing roles, I became Nagy's assistant and learned great stagecraft."
Moving to New York in 1974, she encountered the teacher who was to remake her voice. "It was Ellen Faull who first insisted I was a soprano," said Kucenic. "She told me I couldn't sing in public for a year, and then the first thing I did was Haydn's `Creation' - all high and flutey. I felt so out of my element.
"It took us seven years to undo and rebuild my voice, unloose the gripping, grinding sounds I had. I felt I was just beginning, and so late! I'm sure Faull wondered many times just how far I would go. But God alone knows that, and I feel that I have not yet explored my own special talent to the fullest." Kucenic still checks in with Faull whenever she can.
She felt she came into her own in 1982, when she sang in Italy's Arena di Verona - a formidable forum that holds some 22,000, and no microphones allowed. She substituted on short notice as Musetta, and "it was then I found the difference between pushing and giving," she said. "The sound must travel, it must grow.
"After that, I felt that I don't have to please anyone anymore. I just do what's inside me with sincerity, and I want whoever listens to feel they have had an experience. If someone tells me I remind them of the `old-fashioned' singers, I am delighted."
In 1987 she finally found herself singing Aida onstage - halfway around the world, in the beautiful new arts complex in Taipei, Taiwan, shortly after the New York City Opera played there.
In Taipei she encounted another major career influence in Chiu-Sen Chen, music director of the center, who has engaged her again and again. She returned there for Tosca and has on her Taipei agenda the "Trovatore" Leonora and Desdemona and the Beethoven Ninth Symphony. She's also formed a warm friendship with Taiwan President Lee. "He says I must live in Taiwan and teach his people, but I'm not ready for that yet," she said.
Recent engagements have been with the New York City Opera, New York Grand Opera in Central Park and Caracas Symphony (Mahler's Eighth Symphony). Much of her career has been made abroad, and that has taught her perspective. "I love South America and the Orient - and the regional companies of America where opera is an event, a party, warm and loving," she said. "In New York and London, opera is all business."
Meanwhile, her agenda is filling up gratifyingly into 1991, with concert dates and such roles as Sieglinde, Santuzza, Turandot, Aida, Minnie, Tosca, Donna Anna and the Verdi Leonoras. ("Verdi is medicine for the voice," she said.)
"The more I grow, the more I see that there is need not to be critical and judgmental but loving and kind toward colleagues," she concluded. "The highest artists are not jealous, they are helpful and kind."
Another artist with Hartt College ties is David Rae Smith, who's here to perform Prince Orlofsky, the bored Russian usually sung by a mezzo. So much has Smith made Orlofsky his own that one critic called his performance the best to be found in New York City.
Now teaching at Hartt College and in New York, Smith is still adding to a long and varied career in buffo operatic and comic operetta parts, along with television and symphonic appearances (National, Detroit and Baltimore symphonies among others). Even now he looks forward to coaching Baron Ochs ("Der Rosenkavalier") with Otto Edelmann in Vienna, where Smith also has a significant career. Most recently he performed in "Cats" at the Theater an der Wien, the historic comic house where "The Magic Flute" had its premiere.
"I don't have a big, loud, glorious voice," said Smith candidly, "but I'm still going strong after a lot of those others have come and gone."
Smith studied on a Fulbright grant in Stuttgart, then sang at Dortmund and Salzburg operas, even appearing in the Salzburg Festival as a young man. "I pushed too hard and had to rework my voice, but I was very lucky in my teachers - Martial Singher and Emmy Joseph, and Dick Marzollo, who was accompanist for Beniamino Gigli and coached for Toscanini. From him I learned about patter singing. He said keep the sound in your head, not chewing away on the lips, and you can go as fast as you want.
"Orlofsky is usually played as a spoiled 18-year-old and was probably given to mezzo perhaps because Strauss needed more women's voices for his ensembles," Smith explained. "Actually, when Ruth and Thomas Martin made their translation, they had a tenor singing it.
"I sang the role as early as 1962 at New York City Opera and have done it dozens of times since. I admired the Prince Orlofsky of soprano Jarmila Novotna, but I don't play him effeminately. My Orlofsky has a black wig, he's a mad Russian, a world-weary, blase aristocrat who has done everything - in short, a typical South European comic opera character."
Smith greatly admires Woody Romoff, 70 years old, who plays the jailer, Frosch. Primarily an actor and director, Romoff has appeared with almost everybody of note for 50 years on Broadway, in national tours, commercials, dinner and summer theater. "He's the sort of personality that's not a star but brings such quality to a production," said Smith.