Curtain Call: Tartuffe
What: Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe (live opera)
When: 2011-02-10 - 2011-02-13
Among the works of musical theater coming to Carbondale this season is Tartuffe, an opera in three acts by American composer Kirke Mechem. Inspired by a seventeenth-century play of the same title by French actor and playwright Moliere, Mechem's opera tells the story of a religious hypocrite who attempts to use his supposed piousness to take control of a vulnerable family. The SIU School of Music's Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theatre and the Department of Theater will come together from February 10 to February 13 to bring Tartuffe to the Christian H. Moe Laboratory Theatre.
Stage director Tim Fink notes that Tartuffe remains a popular opera, particularly around university campuses. "Of the twentieth century operas, it's gotten its share of performances," Fink says.
Accompanying Fink in the production of the opera is vocal and opera coach Paul Transue, whose main focus is not only to teach the singers their individual parts, but also to help them understand the relationship between the music and their characters.
Transue says that part of his role involves "trying to help discuss with Mister Fink an appropriate tempo. We want everything in the music [to] help show the dramatic storyline as much as possible. So I sort of work with him and we try to come up the tempo that best matches what he sees the scene being about."
Although Tartuffe was originally written for full orchestra accompaniment, this version of the opera will rely upon piano only. While operas are generally thought of as large and expansive, this one will exist on a somewhat smaller scale due to the necessity of working within the more intimate space of the Moe Theatre. But although this version of Tartuffe is more simplified, Fink notes that it is not without its challenges.
He says it is still "a difficult piece, period. It's difficult for the singers, it's difficult for the pianist. It's not like a more conventional, older opera. This is harmonically and rhythmically much more complex."
This version of Tartuffe will also be done in the round, meaning the actors will occupy a stage surrounded by the audience on all four sides.
Of the in-the-round format, Fink says, "It's kind of a neat experience for our singers to do that, because instead of having to turn out, what we call opening up towards an audience in a typical theater arrangement, this way they can interact in a more natural manner with other cast members on stage."
"It's a great challenge to the performers to be surrounded on all sides, not just on one side, to tell the story," Transue says. "[U]sually in opera, there's a pretty good distance between the stage and the audience, and so here the fact that there's two feet between the performers at times and the audience, to be that close, you really do have to be in character and be committed to those sorts of values."
Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for senior citizens, and $6 for students. For tickets, visit <http://SouthernTicketsOnline.com>, call the box office at (618) 453-6000, or stop by the box office weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or one hour before performances. There are no service charges for in-person purchases, though phone and online purchases will carry a $1.50 service charge. For more information, visit <http://mcleod.siu.edu>.
who: SIU Theater Department and Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theatre
what: Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe (live opera)
where: Communications Building Christian Moe Laboratory Theatre
when: February 10 through February 13