Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


March 9, 2007

UI Opera Theater Returns To Hancher For Puccini's 'La Bohème'

The University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater will return to the UI Hancher Auditorium to present one of the most popular operas ever written, Puccini's "La Bohème," in performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 28 and Friday, March 30, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 1.

The production is part of the Centennial Celebration of the UI School of Music. The celebration has featured a series of performances throughout the 2006-07 academic year.

The student cast of "La Bohème" and the UI Symphony will be conducted by William LaRue Jones, the UI director of orchestral studies. Scenic and costume design will be by Margaret Wenk from the UI Division of Performing Art Production Unit.

Stage direction will be by William Theisen, a guest artist who directed "The Magic Flute" for the UI Opera Theater in 1999. He is an experienced stage director, but this will be his first production of "La Bohème."

A tale of turbulent and ultimately doomed love, "La Bohème" takes place in the garrets, cafes and streets of 19th-century Paris. The young, artistic Bohemians of the title, and the blooming of love between the penniless poet Rodolfo and the seamstress Mimi have captured the hearts of audiences from the very first performance in 1896.

The action of the opera is mostly emotional, covering the time from the first meeting of the impetuous young lovers, their initial happiness together, their unhappiness when apart and their final reconciliation before Mimi succumbs to consumption.

Theisen noted, "'La Bohème' is one of the most popular and beloved operas ever written. The first question I asked myself was, 'How do I make this opera as direct, accessible, funny and emotionally engaging as it was to the first audiences in 1896?' My main goal was to find a way to address this 110-year-old work as if it were being presented for the first time.

"Staging 'La Bohème' at a university has one huge advantage: the cast will be the right age! . . . My hope is that I will be able to assist the cast in bringing out the simple humanity in each of their characters."

The cast of students will include Chris Diehl and Rodolfo and Colleen Jennings as Mimi. The other bohemians -- Marcello, Colline and Schaunard -- will be played by Bryce Weber, Paul Morel and Martin Barclay. Allison Holmes will sing the part of Musetta, and Jonathon Struve will appear as Benoit and Alcindoro.

Other artistic contributions to the production will include lighting design by Marcus Dilliard and vocal preparation by Shari Rhoads.

Theisen is artistic director of Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee. He has worked as a freelance performer and director for theater and opera companies throughout the United States and Canada. Among his many productions have been "The Pirates of Penzance" with the Santa Fe Opera, "Sweeney Todd" with the Cleveland Opera, "The Magic Flute" for the Virginia Opera, "Man of La Mancha" at the Paper Mill Playhouse and "Oklahoma!" with the Little Theater on the Square.

Theisen has been a guest director and lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Portland State University, the Manhattan School of Music, Utah State University, Northwestern University and the University of Louisville.

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. The founding director of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Jones has appeared as a guest conductor with professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. See:

As the resident designer for the UI Performing Arts Production Unit for the past 23 years, Wenk has gained a national reputation as an artist designing costumes and scenery. Her designs have had a major impact on the success of the productions staged by the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater, Department of Dance, University Theatres and Iowa Summer Rep. Wenk was awarded the Iowa Board of Regent's Staff Excellence Award for 2001-02.

Tickets for "La Bohème" are $25/20; $12/10 for UI students and youth; and $20/16 for senior citizens. Patron tickets for those wishing to make a contribution to support the opera theater are $75.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. 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.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website

Established in 1906, the UI School of Music will celebrate its centennial throughout the 2006-07 academic year. The centennial concerts, including performances by UI faculty and many of the major ensembles of the School of Music, are listed on the Web at

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 and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072; cell: 319-541-2846;

OTHER INFORMATION: For schedule of dress rehearsals, to request admission to the rehearsals, or for interviews with the director or cast members of "La Bohème," please contact Susan Orhon, 319-335-3016, or