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Opera and Theater for Beginners

Opera and theater have been stereotyped as elite art forms, but Indiana University is working hard to change that old-fashioned notion.

With the first couple weeks of classes in the books at Indiana University in Bloomington, new students are starting to settle in and get acquainted with the town. For those new students looking for something more than the usual party scene, Bloomington is an especially rich community with museums and galleries, ballet and dance performances, classical and rock concerts – something for everyone.

Today on Artworks, we highlight two organizations on the IU campus that new students might want to check out: the IU Opera Theater and the IU Department of Theater and Drama.

Maria Levy is the executive administrator of the IU Opera and Ballet Theater. She says that the opera program is like a training ground for the young singers. “We try to provide them with an experience that is as close to what they will encounter in the real world as possible.” Some former student have ended up on major opera stages around the country and around the world, so “you get to see the stars of tomorrow on our stage.”

For first-time opera goers, Levy recommends seeing Romeo and Juliet by Charles Gounod. She says the opera story sticks very close to the Shakespeare play, and audiences will find it familiar. For audience members concerned about not being able to understand French, there are supertitles, which translate the main points of the opera. But, she says, the experience of hearing the music and seeing the action on stage could be translation enough. “If you like music and if you have feelings in you, you will understand it.”

But don’t take her word for it. Check out the complete IU Opera Theater season. The first production of the season is The Italian Girl in Algiers by Gioachino Rossini.

From the opera to the theater – two departments that share the same block on Jordan Avenue on the Bloomington campus. And not too far away from each other in terms of productions really. The IU Department of Theater and Drama will be presenting two musicals this year, Blood Brothers, which is the first production of the season and A Little Night Music by Steven Sondheim.

Jonathan Michaelson is the Chair of the IU Department of Theater and Drama. He’s been doing this his whole life: acting in productions, directing, and watching theater. But I wanted to know what he loves so much about it, what makes theater so unique. Michaelson says it’s the community theater creates. “You come together with total strangers. You have total strangers in front of you. And by the end of it, you’ve all had a communal experience. I think that’s what brings people to theater.”

The 2009-2010 season at the IU Department of Theater and Drama includes two musicals, some new plays, and As You Like It by Shakespeare. They try to present a variety of works not only to challenge their students, but to engage their audience members in different ways. And the audience is incredibly important to the success of live theater, Michaelson says. “We rehearse all this time, and then if no one shows up in the audience, it would all be for naught.” He also wants to emphasize how accessible live theater is in that “it’s easy to get a ticket, it’s easy to come to the theater.”

And it’s easy to visit their website to find out more about the 2009-2010 IU Department of Theater and Drama season

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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