By SAVANNAH BOUS
The Drake Opera Theater conducted Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, a classic Italian tale, which took center stage in the Performing Arts Hall from Feb. 22-24, 2019. The Friday and Saturday showings started at 7:30 p.m. with the Sunday, a matinée, taking place at 2:00 p.m.
This production of Falstaff was put on by Stefano Vignati, director and conductor, and Leanne Freeman-Miller, music director.
Freeman-Miller has been teaching as a voice professor at Drake University for over 20 years. Stefano Vignati is in his third year working at Drake but has dedicated his entire working career to Opera. This will the first opera done by the duo at Drake University.
“It’s difficult, but it’s short,” Vignati said. “It’s an opera for the young.”
Falstaff is about a man who sends two identical love letters to different women. Both women are aware of what happened and plot their revenge. Congruently, their husbands see the letter too and plot revenge because they think they’ve been cheated on.
“The women are smart and constantly ahead of the men,” said Alice Lind, the assistant director. “The women are very clever in this show, which is where a lot of the humor comes from.”
Lind is a current senior and has participated in the Drake Opera since freshman year. She started out in the chorus and now she is the lead mezzo soprano as Dame Quickly.
Diego Valdez was invited to participate as the lead tenor. Vignati and Valdez originally met in Italy.
“My first experience working with Drake students was actually in Italy, but I was blown away by the level of talent Drake students have and the fact that they’re all undergrads because they’re all so young and all so good,” Valdez said. “I feel like Drake is uniquely blessed with really talented singers.”
A wide age range is present in the Drake Opera Theater. First-years to seniors to professional operatic singers are all coming together for Falstaff.
Usually, the annual Drake opera occurs later in the spring. With less time, the rehearsals for Falstaff started the third week of school in the 2018-2019 year.
A commitment like this took quite a lot of work ranging from a minimum of four hours of rehearsals a week outside coaching and individual work.
“I’m always excited when everything comes together,” Freeman-Miller said. “When the orchestra arrives, when students put their costumes on and their makeup – suddenly they’re transformed. It’s magic.”
After months of practice and planning by the opera members and staff, the show opened.
“It will make you laugh, we’ve worked our butts off and opera is truly for everyone,” Lind said. “I feel like especially now with our generation and how strongly we relate and express ourselves through music and pop culture – that’s entirely what opera is about.”