The Southern Utah University Opera Theatre opens their performances of Giacomo Puccini’s operas “Gianni Schicchi” and “Suor Angelica” on Wednesday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. with performances running through Saturday, March 26. Both shows are directed by Carol Ann Modesitt.
“Gianni Schicchi” is a comedy that follows a man who is recruited by a family to get themselves into the will of their deceased relative who has left all of his belongings to a group of friars.
“Suor Angelica” is a tragedy that follows a nun who once had a son out of wedlock who learns from her aunt that the child has died.
“Puccini is very difficult,” said Modesitt. “He changes tempo about every four bars which can get quite confusing.”
Because of the difficulty of Puccini’s works, the rehearsals started with and focused largely on learning the music and lyrics before moving onto character and blocking.
“The students have risen to it,” said Modesitt. “They’re doing a great job. I’m really proud of them. They are so excited about doing an opera.”
Due to COVID, the opera program has not done an actual opera in a few years. In 2021, they did puppetry but the students have been looking forward to getting back to performing actual operatic works.
“I’ve never performed with a live orchestra before,” said Alana Schmidt, who plays Sister Genevieve in “Suor Angelica.” “It’s really cool to hear yourself accompanied by a whole orchestra.”
Due to SUU Theatre’s production of “Mother Courage” taking place in the same theater as the opera, they will only have one rehearsal in the space before opening.
“We are so lucky that they’ve allowed us to be in the Randall,” assistant director Mackenzie Williams said.
Because of the fast turnaround of shows, the opera program will be very pressed for time to move into and out of the theater.
“I’m trying to be incredibly organized,” said Modesitt. “I have a wonderful assistant and stage manager. They are helping me organize how we’re going to get everything over there and everything out.”
The lead roles of Gianni Schicchi and Sister Angelica will be played by SUU alumni Gregory Watts and Janese Pentico. Modesitt felt that these roles were heavier than the program’s current students could do at this stage in their development.
“I felt it would be better for the students to work with people who graduated from this program and are out singing professionally now,” said Modesitt.
The student understudies have been playing the roles during much of the rehearsal process, adding Watts and Pentico into those roles later.
“I have loved working with them,” said Williams. “They have been very inspiring to not just me but other students in seeing where our voices could go if we continue after this.”
“Gianni Schicchi” and “Suor Angelica” will be performed back-to-back at the Randall L. Jones Theatre and are free to SUU students with a valid student ID.
Article by: Tessa Cheshire
Photos courtesy of Cayleb Martinez and Marian Wintercorn