Brought to you by the Ralph Opera Program, The School of Music, Theatre and Dance presents: A Little Night Music
By Brooke Poulson, SMTD Publicity Intern
A Little Night Music will be a lot more than just a little night of music when it debuts in Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts at the end of March, it will actually be four days’ worth.
Directed by Dr. Tiffany Blake, associate professor of voice and director of the Ralph Opera Program, and conducted by Special Assistant Professor of Voice Chris Reed, this world-famous opera by Stephen Sondheim is one of the biggest events of the spring semester for the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Colorado State University. This iteration of the highly recognizable and accessible opera takes a fresh modern approach that is sure to please the audience.
The opera takes the audience through the interwoven lives of lovers within an elite group of people living in Sweden, including a lawyer, a young virgin, and an ex-lover who all get tangled up in the game of love.
Although Ralph Opera has performed A Little Night Music before, this is the first time it is being presented as a fully staged production. For his first time conducting A Little Night Music and an opera at CSU, Professor Reed is excited to shine a new light on the story.
“It lets you share an emotional message. It is open-ended and so easily understood by people in their own way,” answered Reed when asked what moves him most about conducting this opera. “The story meanders through several unique relationships, rendering a snapshot of the interconnected lives,” Reed stated.
Featuring interesting and funny dialogue, with a fantastic musical score that expands beyond Sondheim’s famous piece “Send in the Clowns,” it’s the exploration of adult themes that makes this performance particularly memorable. Because of the content, A Little Night Music may not be appropriate for all ages, which might raise a few eyebrows.
Many of the characters emerge with big, complex personalities, so varied from one another that they are sure to impress upon audience members in different ways. The story begins with everyone in the wrong relationship, but in an endearing way, showing off Sondheim’s clever storytelling skills. “You will get attached to the characters even if they’re doing something you don’t necessarily approve of,” said Reed.
Dr. Blake agrees with the assessment. “What moves me about A Little Night Music is the fact that all the characters are flawed and therefore relatable. There is no true hero or heroine,” she said. “During different points throughout the piece, audience members will find themselves rooting for a character in one moment, and then hating them the next.”
The process of staging an opera is no small feat. The amount of time, volume of people – including music and theatre students and faculty, – and areas of expertise are massive components in making it a success.
The project began in Oct. of last year with auditions, followed by musical rehearsals in Nov., and staging in late Jan. The open audition process required one musical-theatre piece in English, followed by a cold dialogue reading. The cast consists of CSU students plus two guest faculty members: theatre instructor and Broadway performer, Patty Goble, and Assistant Professor of Voice Dr. John Carlo Pierce. The cast spends about nine hours rehearsing each week, as well as several more on their own. Each semester, the Ralph Opera Program at CSU produces a full opera, with orchestra, in Griffin Concert Hall.
“It takes a lot of preparation for me as the musical director, Professor Reed [the conductor], the student performers, the theater faculty and staff, and the theater students. It is a spectacular collaboration,” explained Dr. Blake. “This is a wonderful piece with beautiful music and complex characters. I really feel as though the students have grown tremendously as actors during the rehearsal process, and I look forward to seeing them on stage in front of an audience.”
Opera has a way of making the audience experience a side of themselves they may not typically explore, and this production is no exception. “The humanity of it, it’s real. Opera can be so beyond belief at times, and this one isn’t,” Reed contemplated. “The best part, I’d say, is when the audience responds either by laughing or crying.”
So make a little room on your calendar for A Little Night Music and possibly uncover a new side of yourself.
For additional photos of the opera rehearsal, check out our flickr page here!
A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim takes place on March 30, 31, April 1, 7:30 p.m. April 2, 2 p.m. Tickets for the performances are no charge for Full-fee paying CSU students, $1 for youth (under 18), and $19.50 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at www.CSUArtsTickets.com.