Love, deception, revenge, reconciliation – it’s all part of the biggest opera performance undertaken by the University of Central Florida.
With a cast of about 75 students, free performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor are part of UCF Opera’s mission to make opera accessible and relevant to all audiences.
Two performances will be presented March 16 at 7 p.m. and March 18 at 3 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union, which will be turned into an Elizabethan-era village.
“This presents a great opportunity to reach out to non-opera goers in our community,” said Thomas Potter, associate professor of music and executive director of UCF Opera. “Since the opera is to be sung in English and is a light comedy, our key word for the production is ‘fun,’”
UCF Opera performs most of its opera productions in English to help eliminate one of the perceived barriers that people may have – that they won’t understand what’s going on if it is presented in a foreign language, Potter said.
The Otto Nicolai opera, which was originally performed in German in 1849, is based on the 1602 play of the same name by William Shakespeare.
But the production still contains lessons that can be learned today, as lead character Falstaff tries – but fails – to finagle his way into money.
In the seven years since Potter joined UCF to develop its opera program, UCF Opera has presented small concerts and some outreach programs to public schools, including one full production at a high school.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is the second collaboration with the UCF Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Laszlo Marosi. The singers are students in the Opera Workshop class and will also include some members of UCF’s Chamber Singers.
The Florida Opera Theatre in Orlando is helping out with some of the sets.
Presenting the opera in the Pegasus Ballroom will create some logistical demands, said stage director Allen McCoy of the UCF Theatre faculty.
“It’s always a challenge getting something on its feet, and converting the Pegasus Ballroom into a theatrical space – as far as the sight and sound and look – presents some more challenges,” McCoy said.
One of those challenges is movement on the big stage.
“It may be clear how a performer uses his voice, but they also communicate with their bodies by the way they walk and move,” he said. “People look at those things separately, but for a performer it is all one thing.”
Potter said this performance is the most significant step he has taken in developing the university’s opera program.
“It’s a big undertaking for us, and a great experience for all those students to be a part of a big production,” he said.