Classic opera comes to McLeod

Tears of sadness and of laughter will fill the McLeod Theater this weekend.

The SIU theater department will present two one-act operas in conjunction with the university’s School of Music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The operas to be performed are “The Tragedy of Carmen,” which is based on Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” and “Trial by Jury” by Gilbert and Sullivan.

“If ever there was a time for the novice to go to the opera, this would be it,” said Timothy Fink, director of the operas and music professor.

Chris Probus, left, a graduate student from Pewee Valley, Ky., in vocal performance, acts a scene Monday with stage partner, Laura Neal, a graduate student from St. Jacob in music, during a full dress rehearsal at McLeod Theater. The music department has worked in conjunction with the theater department since the fall semester on two one-act operas, a truncated version of Bizet’s “Carmen” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury,” which will premier Friday. Isaac Smith | Daily Egyptian

In an effort to modernize the operas, Fink said he has given the production a contemporary feel by displaying video close-ups of the actors on a big-screen monitor behind the stage.

“The Tragedy of Carmen” is a simplified version of the original opera with a smaller cast, and it gets straight to the main story arc, he said.

Paul Transue, music director for the operas and assistant professor of music, said “The Tragedy of Carmen” tries to tell the story from a slightly different angle than the original.

“It’s the story of ‘Carmen’ as it happens from Carmen’s perspective,” Transue said. “She knows that her fate is death and she goes along with it.”

Fink said the whole opera is performed in French, and students performing in the opera have been learning French since the fall semester while he has helped coach them vocally.

“The Tragedy of Carmen” is the story of a man who becomes obsessed with a beautiful gypsy woman named Carmen, Fink said.

“She uses men as boy toys, way before people ever had any concept of that idea,” Fink said.

Laura Neal, a graduate student in music from St. Jacob, plays Carmen.

“Carmen is a wild animal, really,” Neal said. “Her philosophy of love is a lot different than normal people. She really doesn’t believe in all this monogamy and settling down with one person. She’s just a flavor of the week kind of girl.”

Neal said her character is very demanding of attention, which has been the biggest challenge for her because she is the opposite of her character in reality.

“The Tragedy of Carmen” brings drama to the stage, but “Trial by Jury” will close the night on a lighter note.

Fink said the opera is a parody of the British judicial system. Most of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas were made to make fun of something in British culture, including the Queen, he said.

“Trial by Jury” follows a girl who is set to be married until her soon-to-be husband stands her up at the altar, he said.

“The musical elements were very expertly put together by Dr. Transue, and it was phenomenally directed by Tim Fink,” said Adam Floro, a senior from Marion studying theater, who is playing a member of the jury.

Floro said though he’s been in theater for a while, this will be his first opera and he is nervous about going on stage but with the help of Fink, he has been able to use his nervousness in the right way.

“(Fink) really knows how to put an opera together and how to stage it,” Floro said. “The ways he’s staged ‘Carmen,’ … I’ve never seen it done that way before.”


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