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Release: June 28, 2002

UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater performs Gilbert & Sullivan

Only Gilbert and Sullivan would write an operetta about two brothers, each trying desperately NOT to become a king.

The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will present one of the last and most popular of the many musical satires from the British light-opera team in their summer production of “The Gondoliers,” with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, and a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14. All performances are in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The production is directed by Sally Stunkel, a member of the faculty of the UI School of Music. The University Symphony will be conducted by UI doctoral conducting student Lucia Matos. Set design is by Margaret Wenk of the UI Division of Performing Arts Production Unit.

“The Gondoliers” is one of several operettas composed during a time of open warfare between Gilbert and Sullivan, whose conflicts often sparked their best work. One of their last collaborations, “The Gondoliers” had its first performances at the Savoy Theatre in London Dec. 7, 1889. It had a run of 554 performances -- a stunning success even for Gilbert and Sullivan -- and was played for Queen Victoria at a command performance at Windsor March 6, 1891 -- the first theatrical performance at court since the death 30 years earlier of her consort, Prince Albert.

The plot provides ample scope for Gilbert’s brilliant satire and Sullivan’s sparkling music. At the opera’s outset, the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro and the Grand Inquisitor Don Alhambra del Bolero arrive in Venice searching for the heir to the throne of Barataria. The rightful king is thought to be one of two gondoliers, the brothers Giuseppi and Marco, but no one is sure which. While the Grand Inquisitor tries to unravel the mystery, Giuseppi and Marco are installed on the throne together, to reign as one.

Complications arise when it is learned that Casilda, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess, was betrothed to the rightful king in infancy. Neither gondolier wants to give up his Venetian sweetheart in order to marry the aristocratic Casilda. In the meantime, they infuriate the aristocratic Baratarians with their egalitarian reforms. All is revealed at the end when -- who else? -- an ancient nurse shows up to identify the true heir to the throne.

Observant audience members may figure out the “surprise” ending far in advance, but with Gilbert and Sullivan, details of the plot hardly matter. It’s not the marriage of prince and princess that is important, but that between text and music, and “The Gondoliers” is considered G&S at their hilarious best.

The gondoliers Giuseppi and Marco will be portrayed by Dan Weinstein and Quiliano Anderson, respectively. Others in the cast will include George Mctyre and Ann Cravero as the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro; Lisa Kotara as their daughter, Casilda; Chad Graham as their attendant, Luiz; and Edward Corpus as Don Alhambra del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. Inez the King’s foster mother, who provides the operetta’s denouement, will be performed by Ruthann Mctyre The Gondolier's wives, Gianetta and Tessa, will be played by Stephanie Thorpe and Jacqueline Lang

Other artistic contributions to the production have been provided by chorus master Michael Porter and choreographer Kate Carol. Costumes for the production have been supplied by Harlequin Costume, Winnipeg, Canada. Lighting will be provided by Laurel Shoemaker.

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, Skylight Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, Kentucky Opera and Four Corners Opera. She headed the opera programs at the former St. Louis Conservatory of Music, the University of Tennessee and the University of the Pacific in California.

Known for her expertise in teaching acting to opera singers, Stunkel has taught in the apprentice programs at the Des Moines Metro Opera, Chautauqua Opera, the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, and the Aspen Music Festival. She was a co-founder/director/writer for The Opera Parade and Kinderopera, two touring educational opera companies for children in Maryland. She is a graduate of the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, where she received the National Opera Association’s award for best opera for her productions of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul” and Dominick Argento’s “Postcard from Morocco,”

Lucia Matos was born in Ourinhos, S.P., Brazil. She received a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Campinas, Brazil. From 1997 to 1998 she worked as assistant conductor at the Campinas Symphony Orchestra and University of Campinas Symphony Orchestra. In 1998 she was awarded with a Brazilian scholarship from CAPES for continuing her studies. She received a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the UI, and she is currently completing the requirements for a doctorate as a student of UI Symphony conductor William LaRue Jones. She has conducted the Des Moines Symphony, Americana Symphony and Campinas Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for “The Gondoliers” are $16 ($12 for senior citizens; $8 for UI students and youth). Tickets are available from the Hancher Auditorium Box Office.

Hancher Auditorium box office summer business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. The Hancher box office may be contacted by phone at 335-1160 in the local calling area, long distance toll-free at 1-800-HANCHER, or by e-mail at < >. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

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.

The School of Music and the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater are part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts. The production of “The Gondoliers” is supported in part by a gift from the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

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