“Martha” allows students to flex their acting muscles

Katarina Kovac, Staff Reporter

The School of Music, Theatre and Dance at Oakland University will present “Martha,” a romantic comedy opera, on Jan. 9, 11, 13 and 14 in Varner Recital Hall.

This opera is a love story set in Queen Anne-era England. Two noble women, seeking adventure in disguise, fall in love with two peasant men, but the ladies don’t care for country life. There’s mistaken identity along with plenty of comedic turns of events.

Drake Dantzler, associate professor of the music, voice and opera program coordinator, described Martha as an 1840’s opera that is tuneful and comic in nature.

“The show is composed of charming duets, trios, quartets and large ensembles based around the events taking place at the ‘Richmond Fair,’ and the ensuing fall-out from those events,” Dantzler said. “It includes several famous numbers, including ‘The last rose of summer’, Lionel’s famous aria ‘Ach so Fromm’, and the ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘Midnight’ quartets.”

Guests in attendance can expect to see elaborate and 1800s England-inspired costumes used throughout the whole performance.

“The costume designer for our show, Christy Huessner, incorporated the style from England in the 1800s with colors that reflected the nature of the music and the character’s personalities,” Dantzler said. “Some characters are dressed quite plainly, other’s reflect an exaggerated take on the highly stylized court dress of the time.”

Martha comes from the light, comical style of French opéra comique.

“This music is vocally driven, meaning that the music is primarily a mechanism for supporting rich, arching vocal lines,” Dantzler said. “Furthermore, comedic operas provide the students with an opportunity to showcase their personalities and have fun on stage.”

The cast is comprised of OU voice performance and voice education students. They are almost all undergraduate singers. Victoria Shively, conductor for Martha, said she especially enjoys working with student actors when putting on a performance such as Martha.

“Conducting the opera is an extension of my teaching here at Oakland University, so the success and education of our exceptional students both on stage and in the orchestra is my primary focus,” Shively said. “I look forward the most to hearing and seeing them reap the benefits of their hard work. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

With OU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance quickly growing, opera has become extremely successful due to the dedication of the music faculty that works as a team.

“The students have learned how to perform in ensembles because of nationally renowned conductors (who are my faculty role models as well),” Shively said. “They see the rehearsal techniques, organization and production practices in their music education classes come to life.”

The show will be produced in English with full costume, set and orchestra. The audience will enjoy a light-hearted evening on tuneful songs and passionate duets.

Admission is $10 for students and $20 for the general public.