Italian opera relatable for university students

Lifestyle Reporter
Spencer Reichman (performance senior), Francis Nieves (music studies sophomore) and Kurt Kaiser (music senior) perform March 29 at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre.

The Texas State Opera Theatre presented Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” March 26-29 at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre in the Performing Arts Center.

The opera was separated into two parts by an intermission, with one portion in Italian and the other in English. The story is a comedy about a family and a friend, Gianni Schicchi, who plans a scheme to receive all the money left behind by the wealthy Uncle Buoso.

Samuel Mungo, director and associate professor in the School of Music, said the cast and crew put in four months of practice for the show. “Gianni Schicchi” was the first foreign-language opera Mungo has directed. Emphasis was placed on the Italian portion to give the actors a chance to tell the story effectively.

“It was a challenge,” Mungo said. “There was a disconnect no matter how hard you tried, so we did a lot of training, and a lot of hours were spent on translation. During rehearsal, we would stop and say, ‘OK, what exactly are you saying?’”

Actors received books explaining the meaning of each song in Italian to help them accurately convey the story when performing.

"Singing operatically and acting is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” Mungo said. “People say the hardest thing to do is hit a curveball. I would say a curveball is nothing. Trying to create something truthfully while using your voice at high demands—that is hard."

Jennifer Dryer, music masters student, played the role of Schicchi’s young daughter, Lauretta, during the Friday and Sunday productions. She said singing in Italian was easy because of her fondness for the language.

“I actually prefer singing in Italian,” Dryer said. “It is one of my favorites. I just think it is a beautiful language."

Subtitles displayed English translations on a screen above the set so the audience could understand the Italian portion of the show.

“I was grateful for the subtitles,” said Will LeBlanc, audience member. “I sort of would have wanted the second part of the show to be in Italian as well. Both parts were great, but the Italian is just very nice to listen to.”

LeBlanc said the comedic aspect of the show made it relatable for the audience.

“It was really funny,” LeBlanc said. “I think even without the subtitles, I still would have been able to understand, and I’m sure other people would have, too. You still get the story because of the acting.”

Dryer said the show was ideal for beginning opera watchers because of the production’s comedy and short duration.

“I watch it every night and find something different to laugh at each time,” Dryer said.

Mallorie Gabbert, performance junior, played Lauretta during the Thursday and Saturday productions. She said the show is relevant to college students.

“I want the audience to see that opera is not just for music majors,” Gabbert said. “It’s very relatable, and it’s for everyone. I hope they have a good time and they see how hard we’ve worked.”