By Mary Brassard
The Utah Opera isn’t just for stuffy old rich ladies with transatlantic accents. Oh no. I found out for myself just how dynamic and fun the Utah Opera really is when I went to the final dress rehearsal of Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi on Thursday night. I was privy to a backstage tour, and some fascinating inside information before I got to watch these two short operas unfold onstage.
Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi is a great double feature opening on Friday, March 8, 2018, for the Utah Opera. It’s two short operas. First, a tragedy, a romantic drama featuring a troop of clowns. Next, a comedy. Imagine a sitcom but as an opera. A greedy family plots to keep their dying uncle’s money. I was privileged to see both of these and loved them both.
I found out that I really did not know much at all about the Utah Opera. I learned so much during my evening at the Capitol Theater, so I am going to share my new knowledge through a series of “Did you knows”.
Did you know, the singers do not use microphones? Yes, it’s true. Opera singers are so powerful, and so finely trained, that they are able to project their signing voice over a full orchestra, and all the way to the very back row. It’s amazing what they can do. You never have to worry about faulty tech problems, and what you hear are the singer’s voices and the amazing instruments. No auto-tuning here!
Did you know, the opera is easy to follow and the story is simple to understand? Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi is in Italian, a language I am not at all fluent in. Many operas are in Italian or a non-English language. However, there are giant subtitles projected onto a large screen. You simply read along. And because one line of dialogue takes much longer to sing with a long operatic crescendo, you can easily glance at the words and back to the stage without missing a beat. You won’t fall behind. These are called “Supertitles”. Moreover, the stories are classic, simply told stories that play out beautifully in song, and the singers are also brilliant actors, giving you every emotion you are meant to understand.
Did you know the orchestra is actually the Utah Symphony? I found out that the Utah Symphony and The Utah Opera merged in 2002. So the music coming from the orchestra pit is not just any old orchestra. It is The Utah Symphony. That’s right. Want to spend the evening seeing the Utah Opera and the Utah Symphony? Well, look no further than 50 West 200 South, Salt Lake City aka the Capitol Theater.
Did you know the French horn player’s name is Llew Humphries? Ok, I’ll bet that you really didn’t know this one! I got to have a chat with Llew, and learn a bit about the symphony players. For example, the Utah Symphony is one of only 15 full-time orchestras in the country. And some of the orchestra members are heading out on a musical humanitarian trip to Haiti next month. This trip is funded by donors and the musicians themselves.
Did you know the leading lady is a Utah woman? Marina Costa-Jackson is an emerging opera star with roots in Utah and attended Utah State University. She has two sisters that are also opera singers. Her performance was stunning.
Did you know the opera can be a little bit scandalous? Well, it can! Pagliacci, the first opera of the evening, the tragedy, had steamy romance and heart-pounding violence. The second was irreverent and funny. It even has elements that a bit reminiscent of Weekend at Bernie’s, so, you might say Weekend at Puccini’s?
Did you know they only perform for five nights, and that’s actually a long run? Only five nights. So don’t hesitate, and miss your chance. I was told that a usual opera run around the country is three nights, and opera singers enjoy this longer run as it gives them more time to explore the depths of their roles.
Did you know high school students can see the opera for free? On the evening of the final dress rehearsal, high school students can come and enjoy it for free. This is a part of their very impressive and large educational outreach program called The Utah Opera Education Department. Along with opening dress rehearsals to students, both at the opera, and at the symphony, they also do several performances in schools, offer workshops to teachers and students, and host an annual cultural festival. That is just scratching the surface. Go to usuoeducation.org for more information, and check out this video link.
Did you know that this movie going, Netflix binging, McDonald’s eating gal is now a freaking opera fan? I’m checking Amazon for some fancy schmancy Opera glasses ASAP. The opera is not just for fancy tuxedo owners like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. It’s for regular people like me, also. There is something in it for everyone. I think even my mischievous little seven-year-old nephew would love Pagliacci for the parallels to his favorite scary clown, “It“. Put on some fancy duds, and give a production at Utah Opera a try. I’ll bet you’ll find something in it that speaks to you.
I had the time of my life at the Utah Opera. Both operas thrilled me! The funny old stereotype about sleeping through opera—I don’t believe it. I was on the edge of my seat for each. First, in nervous anticipation as to where Pagliacci‘s dramatic plot would lead us, and second, with boisterous laughter wondering just how much more silly this can Gianni Schicchi get.
Follow the Utah Opera and get loads of inside information on their educational initiative, info about their Haiti trip, and much more. Their handle is @utahopera. Don’t miss this awesome gem that we have right here in our state.
Utah Opera presents Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo/Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini, Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101
March 10, 12, 14, 16 18 7:30 PM
Utah Opera Facebook Page
Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi Facebook Event