Not an “Opera Buff”? This opera production just may be your thing!
From crime family rivalry in a 1920’s Speakeasy to the hilarious antics of over-the-top opera auditionee “Wanda Wannabe,” all sung in English, Converse Opera Theatre puts a modern-day twist on classic operas by Purcell and Mozart for its upcoming production. The double-bill of one-act operas are specially designed for those who might typically shy away from opera, featuring modern-day twists on the tragic Dido and Aeneas and comedic The Impresario. The production runs Friday, Jan. 24 through Sunday, Jan. 26 in the intimate setting of Blackman Music Building’s Daniel Recital Hall at Converse College, at 7:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, and 3 PM on Sunday. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $13 for seniors, and free for students with ID and children. They are available for advance purchase through the Twichell Auditorium Box Office at 864.596.9725, or at the door prior to performances.
“I am a big proponent of bringing opera to audiences in entertaining, informative, and accessible ways.”
Converse Opera Director Rebecca Turner is masterful in making classical opera accessible to modern-day audiences, particularly those who may be less familiar with opera. “I am a big proponent of bringing opera to audiences in entertaining, informative, and accessible ways. Like our recent Cosi fan tutte production at Chapman Cultural Center, this year’s offerings are updated and full of new ideas,” she said. Together with stage director and graduate student Wayne Hobbs, Turner set Dido and Aeneas in a 1920’s speakeasy dubbed “Carthage,” with flapper and Erté-inspired costumes customized by Costume Curio in Greenville. Set in modern times, the comedic The Impresario portrays the trials and tribulations of opera company general manager, Paul Green as he casts an opera production. Dialogue for The Impresario has been updated and rewritten accordingly, and both operas will be sung in English.
Dido and Aeneas is the story of Dido, the head of a powerful crime family, who falls in love with rival family leader, Aeneas. Age-old issues of love, passion, intrigue and betrayal propel the story in Purcell’s poignant and beautiful masterpiece. The Impresario offers a hilarious tale of opera company general manager, Paul Green, whose opera auditions attract beginners, “wannabes,” over-the-hill divas, promising up-‘n’-comers and a host of other colorful characters. In the end, after a few twists and turns, Paul is able to cast the opera and everyone lives happily ever after. “This new version of The Impresario is current and funny,” said Turner. “It is also expanded with more characters, allowing us to cast more students, giving more opportunities. As an educator, this is extremely important to me.”
Spartanburg audiences will recognize Wayne Hobbs, who stage directs both operas as well as performs the lead role of Paul Green in The Impresario, from his recent performances with the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Hobbs is pursuing his Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance, studying with Turner at Converse. He has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and New York City opera, among others. Among his many solo performances are appearances with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, the Montreal Symphony, Nationaltheater Mannheim Orchestra, and the New York Chamber Soloists. He performed in The Impresario last summer with Delaware Opera and renowned librettist Carol Castel, whose libretto and updated version are used for this Converse Opera Theatre production.
Converse undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, as well as professionals from the Upstate community, round out the casts.
Turner joined Converse in 2007. A dramatic soprano, she sings the role of Paul Green’s assistant in The Impresario in addition to serving as program director and producer. Turner has 550 performances to her credit, having sung as lead soprano in numerous opera houses across Europe, in China and throughout the United States, and she recently joined the company of the Deutsche oper am Rhein (German Opera on the Rhine) in Dusseldorf, Germany. She collaborates closely with her husband, Stafford Turner, who provides scenic design and construction for Converse Opera Theatre productions.
About Converse Opera Theatre
Since 1952 Converse Opera Theatre has been a jewel in the crown of the Petrie School of Music at Converse College. Today’s Converse Opera Theatre continues the tradition of excellence by offering professional-quality, fully-staged productions with orchestral accompaniment and beautiful sets and costumes.