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Students learn from collaboration and outside perspective while producing ‘Die Fledermaus’


This week, 42 students ranging from freshmen to graduate students, majoring in areas from music and theatre to physics, will thrill audiences with their musical and acting talents in a production of “Die Fledermaus,” a popular opera about a friendly practical joke gone wrong.

The opera is produced as part of a class, Music 319. Students auditioned in the fall and began rehearsals the first week of the spring semester.

“Die Fledermaus” was picked to optimize current students’ talents. “NDSU opera theatre has a commitment to providing an educational opportunity for the students whom we have.  We choose the operas based on who is going to be here the next year and what would be a good opera experience for them to have.”

It also was selected for its broad audience appeal and accessibility. The slapstick comedy elicits chuckles from children and mature adults. Additionally, English dialogue makes it easy to follow. “It’s all about presenting a fun and delightful experience for pretty much anybody of any age,” Sublett said.

While NDSU has produced numerous operas, this is the most elaborate one to date according to Virginia Sublett, professor of music. It represents the most highly integrated effort and the first time a guest stage director has been invited. These elements combined to create a rich learning opportunity for the students.

The production is a collaborative project on many levels. Rooth Varland, associate professor of theatre, designed the costumes; Pavel Dobrusky, assistant professor of theatre, designed the set and Mark Engler, assistant professor of theatre, handled the lighting. Members of the music faculty also play in the orchestra. “On several occasions Rooth Varland has done costumes, but this is the first time we’ve had such a strong collaboration with set design and lighting,” Sublett said.

To add a different viewpoint, the department invited Leon Natker from Lyric Opera San Diego to be the stage director. He has been their general director more than 10 years and has worked throughout the country and in Europe. “The students benefit from his experience and background,” Sublett said. “It adds another layer of educational perspective and ideas that they (students) can enjoy learning from.”

To generate interest in opera among younger people, Sublett and several of the student performers have presented excerpts to high school students about the production and opera in general. They even have created several short YouTube videos posted here to express their feelings about Die Fledermaus and their experience with it.

Sublett is extremely pleased with the students’ progress throughout the semester. “I’m proud of the opportunity to showcase our talented students and give them an opportunity that meets their abilities,” she said. “It’s just great to see how they’ve risen to the occasion.”

She hopes the experience will continue to benefit them for years to come. “I know they will all experience real vocal, technical and theatrical growth from it. They take away from it the sense of excitement of being in a major production and the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of their friends and family and learn what it takes to successfully put on a production of this scope.”

Performances of “Die Fledermaus” are scheduled for Friday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m., at NDSU’s Festival Concert Hall.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
Campus address: Old Main 204
Mailing address: Dept 6000 PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM