CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 30, 2000
UI Opera Theater brings Gilbert & Sullivan's madcap 'Yeomen' to the
stage July 14-16
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Martha Ellen Tye Opera Theater
will present Gilbert and Sullivan's "Yeomen of the Guard" -- a comic
operetta about the famed "Beefeaters" of the Tower of London --
as their summer production, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
July 14 and 15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 16 in Clapp Recital Hall on the
The production will be stage directed by Sally Stunkel, the director of
the Opera Theater. William LaRue Jones will conduct the performances, which
will feature set design by Margaret Wenk. The cast will include faculty and
students from the UI School of Music.
"Yeomen of the Guard" was conceived in 1887 during the Golden
Jubilee celebrating Queen Victoria's 50 years on the English throne. Gilbert
and Sullivan were the leading entertainers of the day, but they had not been
able to agree on a plot for a new operetta to be part of the jubilee. One
of their previous operettas was revived, but the public wanted a new show.
One day Gilbert -- the literary half of the team -- was standing in a London
train station when he happened to see a poster for the Tower Furnishing Company,
showing a scarlet-and-gold-uniformed "Beefeater" in front of the
Tower of London. In that instant, the idea for the new operetta began to take
form -- a tribute to the great age of Victoria, placed in the great age of
Elizabeth I and featuring the Tower Warders -- the Beefeaters, whose resplendent
Tudor uniforms were instantly recognizable.
Fortunately the persnickety Sullivan loved the story, which he described
in his diary as "very human, and funny also." The two men set to
work, and the new show, "The Yeomen of the Guard, or the Merryman and
his Maid," opened in October, 1888 to public and critical acclaim.
"Its success was tremendous," Sullivan wrote in his dairy. "Everything
went on wheels, and I think its success is even greater than 'The Mikado.'"
The operetta is about the hilarious confusion that reigns inside the infamous
Tower of London when a condemned prisoner seems to have vanished into thin
air, leaving the executioner standing at his block.
The missing man is Colonel Fairfax, who twice saved the life of Sergeant
Meryll, a retired Beefeater who still lives at the Tower of London with his
family. In delightful Gilbert & Sullivan fashion, multiple complications
ensue: Meryll's daughter Phoebe is loved by Wilfred, the "head jailer
and assistant tormentor," who is held responsible for the disappearance
of the prisoner, who has just been secretly married to Elsie, a strolling
singer, who in turn is loved by Jack, a wandering jester.
And on and on the complications ensue -- but not too much to be resolved
by show's end, all to the strains of Sullivan's charming, witty music.
Two of the major characters will be sung by UI School of Music faculty members:
Fairfax, the prisoner, by tenor Matthew Castle, and Wilfred Shadbolt, the
head jailer, by baritone John Muriello.
The other male lead, Sgt. Meryll, will be sung by bass-baritone George McTyre,
a guest artist with the Opera Theater.
Other major roles will be taken by graduate students in the UI School of
Music. Meryll's daughter will be sung by Ann Cravero, who was recently featured
as Hansel in the UI production of "Hansel and Gretel." Jack and
Elsie will be sung by Joss Nichols and Ashley Stockwell, who sang the romantic
couple in the musical "She Loves Me" during the last fall semester.
And Dame Carruthers, housekeeper of the Tower, will be sung by Rachel Andrews.
Other creative contributions to the production include lighting design by
Kelly Perkins-Smith and musical preparation by Castle.
A newcomer to the Iowa City area, McTyre has sung numerous roles in opera,
operetta and musical comedy. He sang operatic roles on tour with the National
Opera Company, he sang Gilbert and Sullivan with the Lyric Opera of Dallas
and the Durham (N.C.) Savoyards, and he sang musical theater with Waco (Tex.)
Summer Musicals, the North Carolina Theater and the Triangle Dinner Theater,
McTyre holds a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from Southern Methodist
University and a master's from Baylor University. He sang both operatic and
musical theater roles in university productions, and he has also sung many
concert and oratorio performances.
An accomplished singer, writer and teacher, Castle is serving as visiting
coach-accompanist for the UI Opera Theater. His singing roles in opera and
musical comedy have included Henrik Egerman in "A Little Night Music,"
Nemorino in "The Elixir Of Love," Edvard Grieg in "Song Of
Norway," Archibald Craven in "The Secret Garden," Marco Palmieri
in "The Gondoliers" and Rooster in "Annie," as well as
dozens of cabaret and dinner theater appearances.
As an accompanist, Castle has played in hundreds of recitals and theatrical
productions. He also has extensive experience as a musical director, with
credits in professional, university, community, and school theaters. His compositions
represent many genres, ranging from chamber music to musical theater and opera.
He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton,
Calif., and a master's degree from Northern Illinois University.
A singer whose work ranges from opera and operetta to concert and musical
theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997.
His most recent engagements include performances as Captain Corcoran in "H.M.S.
Pinafore" and Nathan Hershkowits in "Rags" for Seaside Music
Theater. In the fall of 1998 he made his directing debut with the UI School
of Music production of the musical comedy "The Fantasticks," and
he directed the 1999 School of Music production of "She Loves Me."
Muriello has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina,
the Banff Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Skylight Opera Theater,
Ohio Light Opera and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta. He performed as
the Narrator and Mysterious Man in Sondheim's "Into the Woods" and
Marcello in "La Boheme" for Lyric Opera Cleveland. Other roles have
ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" to Voltaire in
Stunkel was appointed director of UI Opera Theater in the fall of 1999.
She has directed for many American opera companies, including Sacramento Opera,
Tulsa Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Aspen Music Festival and Kentucky
Opera. She has more than 70 productions to her credit, including straight
theater as well as opera. She headed the opera programs at the St. Louis Conservatory
of Music, the University of Tennessee and the University of the Pacific in
Stunkel has performed both as an opera singer, performing with the Colorado
Springs Opera, Skylight Opera and Baltimore Opera, and as an actor in spoken
plays, having portrayed Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie" and Eleanor
of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter." With more than 15 years of
dance training, she has also choreographed several productions.
Known for her expertise in teaching acting to opera singers, Stunkel has
taught in the apprentice programs at the Des Moines Metro Opera, Chatauqua
Opera, the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, and the Aspen Music Festival.
A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997
as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies.
Prior to joining the UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator
of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.
Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors'
Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership
and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been
selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota, a music honorary society.
Tickets for "Yeomen of the Guard" are $12 for adults, $7 for UI
students, seniors and youth, and are available in advance from the Hancher
Auditorium box office. Remaining tickets for each performance will be on sale
in the Clapp Recital Hall lobby one hour before curtain time.
Hancher box office summer hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the
local calling area, dial 335-1160. Long distance 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. Information
and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <email@example.com>.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should
dial 335-1158. This line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment
who use that technology.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.