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Tragedy And Comedy, Puccini Style

The IU Opera Theater welcomes two guests for its production of Giacomo Puccini's Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi: stage director James Marvel and conductor Andrew Altenbach.

High Standards And A Sense Of Humor

Marvel has high standards and an almost puckish sense of humor. "When I do something," he says, "I want it to be the best." He doesn't just mean his own best. Marvel is looking for something special in the productions that he directs. IU Opera Theater regulars will recall his dramatic, mysterious production of Lucia di Lammermoor last season.

And any keen-eyed opera-goer will get a feeling for his sense of humor in his current staging of the two Puccini works. Suor Angelica is an affecting, tragic piece, which Puccini reportedly said was his favorite of his own works. Gianni Schicchi is very much a comedy-his only comedy. "I wanted to underline the connection and differences," Marvel explains, "so I'm actually satirizing some of my own Suor Angelica staging in Gianni Schicchi. It'll be interesting to see how the audience reacts."

From Sitting At The Keyboard To Standing With A Baton

Another special guest will be conducting: IU alumnus Andrew Altenbach. As a student, Altenbach not only got a thorough grounding in music literature, theory and performance, but also learned a lot about singers.

"I was a pianist, and my assignment was to play for voice lessons and opera coachings. It was great training in learning the things singers need to be at their most successful." Since then Altenbach has gone on to conduct both orchestral and operatic works, nationally and internationally.

This is Altenbach's first visit back to the Jacobs School of Music, but it's not his first opera here. "While I was a student, the guest conductor for a production of Cosi fan Tutte actually died, and I became the first student to conduct an IU Opera Theater production."

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