I'm George Walker for WFIU arts. Liz Culpepper and Deepa Johnny, you two are playing the character Xerxes. Or is it Serse?
Liz Culpepper: Well, it's Xerxes on the cover and then we're doing the Italian Serse. Yeah, and the English pronunciation is certainty, Xerxes.
Deepa Johnny: Yeah, Italian is Serse.
George: I see your a tyrannical King. You want your brother's girlfriend. The King's fiancee I fiancée isn't too excited about the idea. Yeah, and further complicating the matters the girlfriend’s sister wants her sibling’s boyfriend. The sentence here ends with “what's a King to do.”
George: Both of you are center stage at the beginning singing to a tree.
Lizz: Yeah, right.
George: Gina Tsvetkova is consuming the two of you curious about how she's got you decked out.
Liz: We haven't actually seen our costumes in real life yet. We've gotten a very vague idea of what to expect. So we're wearing, I think like high waisted pants with buttons and blazer. It's supposed to be like someone military, but I haven't seen the actual costume. I don't know if you have.
Deepa: I haven't either, but I think the vision is to have it be very gender neutral with costuming, because I mean so much of the cast is played by women and they want to blur that line though, the costume kind of has a very gendered affect to it.
George: Now Kevin Murphy is the conductor and Kevin is moving into conducting from collaborative piano , Deepa?
Deepa: I did my undergraduate training in Canada and then I came to Indiana University for my Masters so far I've been singing for about 6 years now.
George:What roles did you take on when you were in undergrad?
Deepa: Well, it was a pretty small program, so we only had musical theater productions. We did Beauty and the Beast and I sang Belle, and we did a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and I was Lucy in it. So,it's a it's quite a jump from Lucy to now Xerxes, which is cool.
George Liz, tell us just a little bit about your background.
Liz: My road to Opera was a long one. I started my undergraduate degree as a choral conducting major. At a certain point, I decided I didn't want to do that .I ended up switching into early music. And I actually sang as a soprano until I got to IU. Then I switched to opera. It's been a very different experience.
George: Michael Shell is your stage director and I'm curious about how Michael is working with you, Deepa?
Deepa: Well, he Is fantastic, you know he gives us a lot of room to make things our own with the way we play our characters. He gives us really clear, distinct ideas of as far as staging, but there's a lot of room as to what we bring to the character ourselves.
George: Liz, how you're finding working with Michael?
Liz:I love working with Michael. I just feel like he is somebody who does really allow you to develop the character in your own right. You know, he kind of gives us ideas and there are certain things that we do have to do. Pretty much the exact same as one another. Despite that Deepa and I bring a very different attitude and energy to the role. And so the two Xerxes that you'll see while there are similarities. There's definitely, I think, profound differences as well.
Deepa: It's nice to have a director who's OK with you being your own person and bringing your own background and your own ideas to the role.
George: Wow, the two of you really couldn't be more different in terms of your backgrounds. Mark Frederick Smith is the set designer. Deepa, what are you seeing on stage?
Deepa: Well, we do get to use this giant turntable as part of our staging, which is constantly shifting and rotating, which will indicate a different space in Xerxe’s Palace. And there's also these giant panels that are kept throughout the stage that will shift in Ken Phillips’ lighting. Those with some of the areas that we stage, even though it's a reduced staging set design, it's still very affective with what we're doing in the arias.
George : I'm talking with two Xerxes or Serse, Liz Culpepper and Deepa Johnny, they'll be on stage in Xerxes on Friday, March 5th at 7:30 Saturday, March 6th at 7:30,. They will be alternating, and I don't know which is which. You'll have to tune in for both of them. At the IU Opera Theater I'm George Walker. For WFIU arts.