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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 2, 2005

Weill Operas Are Performed By UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater, Dec. 9-11

The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will present two one-act operas by German-American composer Kurt Weill Friday through Sunday, Dec. 9-11 in the Opera Rehearsal Room of the UI Voxman Music Building.

Performances, at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 11, will be free and open to the public.

Gary Race, director of the Opera Theater, will direct "Mahagonny Songspiel" and William Barbour, a doctoral student in collaborative performance art at the UI, will direct "Seven Deadly Sins." Eric McEnaney, assistant coach/ accompanist for the Martha Ellen-Tye Opera Theater, will accompany both works on piano.

Weill was born in Germany in 1900 and trained as a classical composer. His interest in music as a social force led to his use of vernacular elements, particularly jazz, and to several notable collaborations with the politically conscious German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Their work together included both the "Mahagonny Songspiel" (1929) and "The Seven Deadly Sins" (1933), as well as the better-known "Threepenny Opera" (1933).

Weill left Germany after the Nazis came to power and emigrated in 1935 to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1943. He contributed a number of works to Broadway, including "Lady in the Dark" (1941) and "Street Scene" (1947).

"We have a stock of young performers, including some very talented freshmen, who need performance opportunities," Race said. "This production is a direct response to that need."

"The choice of Weill one-acts came about because I have been working closely with Willie Barbour as he pursues his doctorate here. He has been studying opera history and direction with me and though he has directed many pieces for the theater department and in local theaters, it was time for him to take on an opera. His interest in Weill and Brecht led us to these works."

"In addition, the Opera Rehearsal Room has been under renovation over the past year, and I was interested in re-dedicating it as a unique performance space for opera -- sort of a laboratory space for experimenting and collaborating. Though the renovations are not complete, they are almost ready and these one-acts are perfect to introduce the public to the new look."

Before coming to the UI in 2003, Race was director of opera at the Cleveland Institute of Music and artistic director of Lyric Opera Cleveland. His 30-plus years of experience include the direction of more than 100 productions for regional companies including Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, Whitewater Opera, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Utah Opera. In 1994, he made his European debut directing "Madame Butterfly" for the Stadtheater Lueneburg in Germany.

As an educator, Race has presented workshops on performance techniques for opera singers in colleges and universities across the country, including Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Duquesne, Syracuse, Miami University, Ithaca College and the University of Maryland at College Park. He has created and directed arts education programs for many opera companies, for Gateway to the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Barbour has been active in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, where he has directed a number of gallery productions, including "The Secret Rain" in 2000, "Trojan Women: A Love Story" in 2003 and "Aunt Dan and Lemon" in 2004. He has been sound designer for a number of major productions, including the past two years of Iowa Summer Rep, where he has also directed staged readings. Most recently, he directed "Abraham (I Am an Island)" by UI Playwrights Workshop graduate student Sam Hunter in October.

A UI alumnus, McEnaney has been a coach/ accompanist for the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater productions of "The Merry Widow," "Carmen," "Cinderalla," "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "The Rape of Lucretia," Prior to his UI appointment, McEnaney had professional experience working for the Cedar Rapids Opera Theater, Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, Fla., Circa '21 Productions in Rock Island and the Little Theater on the Square in Sullivan, Ill.

McEnaney is an active collaborative pianist, accompanying academic recitals and working with Chamber Singers of Iowa City, the Cedar Rapids Opera Theater Young Artist Program, Arts Share, Project Art and other organizations. Recent engagements include two recitals with mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner, a recital with tenor Mark Eldred and a 2005 summer appointment as apprentice coach with Des Moines Metro Opera. He holds a master's degree from the UI and a bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University.

The School of Music, the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater and the Department of Theatre Arts are part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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