Students bring opera to Missouri Theatre

The School of Music is presenting "The Merry Widow."
Performers in the Show-Me Opera rehearse a scene from their production of "The Merry Widow." The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Missouri Theatre.

The MU School of Music Show-Me Opera Company will present "The Merry Widow" in a live theatrical performance Friday and Saturday at the Missouri Theatre.

"The Merry Widow," which is sung in English but takes place in Paris, tells the story of an incredibly rich widow from the fictional country of Pontevedro. Hanna, the widow, is pursued by many suitors who want access to her wealth. In the midst of this she finds her old flame, Count Danilo Danilowitsch, and the two fall back in love.

The operetta will feature a cast and orchestra composed entirely of students. The main cast is different for the two performances, which allows a larger amount of students to show off their talent.

“We have solo singers singing the lead roles, a chorus, a full orchestra and a story that is lighthearted and witty and funny,” Director Christine Seitz said. “ The tunes are quite beautiful. There’s a lot of wonderful dance music in the piece.”

The opera, originally by Franz Lehár, was written in the early 20th century and reflects the style of the time.

“Its very much like an early movie, musical plot, one of those Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers shows that is all about ‘let’s watch them sing and dance and we don’t really care what the story’s about too much,’” Seitz said.

Sophomore Anna Bridgman plays Hanna Glawari.

“I love playing this role because she is very bright, very outgoing and she sees right through all of the men who are trying to marry her,” Bridgman said. “She knows they’re only trying to marry her for her money.”

This is Bridgman’s first lead role in an opera, but she was in the chorus of last year’s production. She participated in her high school’s music theater program as well.

Bridgman said this opera is similar to a musical theater style, because it contains a lot of spoken dialogue, but the singing styles are very different.

“The singing is a lot more classically trained,” Bridgman said of opera. “It takes a lot more energy because you have to use your entire body to sing classically.”

Brandon Browning, who plays the role of Count Danilo Danilowitsch, had not participated in any opera before coming to MU as well. This will be his first leading role.

“Last spring, I was a smaller role in the spring opera and they also have an Opera Scenes program every fall semester so I participate in those,” Browning said.

The University Philharmonic Orchestra will accompany the performers and will be led by guest conductor Donald Schleicher, Director of Orchestras at the University of Illinois.

MU Professor Michael Budds will give a pre-opera lecture an hour before the show.

Tickets for "The Merry Widow" are free for MU students and $10 for the general public. They can be purchased at the School of Music Office or at the door.

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