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Release: Immediate

Glass' final UI opera production, 'Merry Wives of Windsor,.' opens July 24

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Otto Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor," Beaumont Glass' 36th and final production as director of the University of Iowa Opera Theater, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, July 24, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 26, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Glass, who joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1980, will retire at the end of the summer.

The performances of "The Merry Wives" will be conducted by William Hatcher, director of choral activities at the UI School of Music. Set design will be by Margaret Wenk, designer for the Performing Arts Production Unit. Choreography will be by Diane Danhieux, director of the Terpsichore School of Dance in Iowa City, and David Belles will be chorus master.

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" is based closely on Shakespeare's play of the same title. The "merry wives" of the title play a series of practical jokes on portly Sir John Falstaff, who styles himself a great lover in spite of his greatness in girth. Responding to the portly knight's advances, the wives lure him first to their homes and then to picturesque Windsor Forest for their revenge.

At the same time that Falstaff is undone by the wives, the young lovers Anne and Fenton have to overcome the usual comic-opera obstacles to their happiness -- no fewer than two hapless rivals, one of whom is unaccountably preferred by the father of the bride-to-be, while the other is preferred by the mother.

Everything is resolved in the final scene, set under the haunted Herne's Oak in the heart of Windsor Forest. Even the children of Windsor are called into action for the final torment of Falstaff, who believes he is beset by supernatural spirits. Even as he gets his affectionate come-uppance, the misunderstandings are all explained and the young lovers are matched, all in Nicolai's tuneful music and in time for the final curtain.

The cast features students in the UI School of Music, with one guest performer. The women's roles will be double cast, with different performers on Friday and Sunday, to increase performance opportunities for the singers in the UI voice program.

The title roles of the merry wives will be taken by Solveig Olsen (Friday) and Danielle Hurt (Sunday) as Mistress Ford; and by Jennifer Valle (Friday) and Laurie Seely (Sunday) as Mistress Page. The central role of Falstaff will be taken by J.S. Endres.

Sean Fallen, a guest from the Indiana University School of Music, will play Fenton. Anne will be sung by Beth Purdy (Friday) and Margaret Lanning (Sunday). The merry wives' not-so-merry husbands will be performed by Daniel Afonso as Ford and Colin Johnson as Page. The hapless rivals will be performed by Oliver Stoutner as Master Slender and Joel Aalberts as Dr. Caius. Donald Macfarlane will portray the host of "The Garter," Falstaff's favorite inn, and Will Derksen will appear as a messenger boy.

Glass' retirement brings to an end an era that has seen a varied operatic repertoire at the UI. Glass' productions have ranged from traditional dramatic fare, including the operatic staples

"La Traviata," "La Boheme" and "Carmen," to the Russian spectacle of "Boris Godunov," a baroque farce by Handel, the ever-so-British comedies of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the whimsical fantasy of Viennese operetta.

During his UI career Glass has been a vocal coach and mentor to voice students in the UI School of Music, as well as an operatic stage director. The students who have learned their craft under his direction have included Michele Crider, Kimm Julian and Leslie Morgan, all of whom have gone on to professional operatic careers.

Before coming to the UI, Glass was for many years a leading opera coach of the Zurich Opera and the Festival of Aix-en-Provence. Along with staging operas in Europe and the United States, he has accompanied song recitals in the Salzburg, Aix and Holland festivals, as well as on tour with well-known singers including Grace Bumbry, Martina Arroyo and Simon Estes.

Glass' biography of the great soprano Lotte Lehmann was published in 1988. Volume I of his edition of "Schubert's Complete Song Texts" was published in 1996, the second volume in 1997. He was the UI Presidential Lecturer in 1988. He has been a frequent guest on the New York radio program "Opera Fanatic" and directs opera performances presented by the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Hatcher has served as director of choral activities at the UI School of Music since 1988. He directs the graduate choral conducting program, conducts choral ensembles in the School of Music and frequently appears as music director of productions by the UI Opera Theater.

He was national president of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) 1991-93, and presently is chair of the ACDA Endowment Trust. Prior to coming to Iowa he taught at UCLA, the University of Washington and Pasadena City College.

In the fall of 1996 his UI Kantorei participated in an International Choral Competition in Tolosa, Spain. Prior to that honor, Kantorei was one of only five choirs chosen to participate in the 1994 World Choral Festival in Seoul, South Korea, where they presented concerts over an eight-day period.

In 1990 Kantorei performed the Mozart "Requiem" with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and other orchestras in the former Soviet Union and also gave concerts in Russia, Estonia and Finland. Kantorei has also performed for regional and national conventions of the ACDA in 1992 and 1993.

Tickets for "The Merry Wives of Windsor" are $12 ($7 for UI students, senior citizens and youth under 18) and are available from the Hancher Auditorium Box Office. Hancher summer box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.