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Gondoliers set sail for Venice

Zane+Larson+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C+Kurt+Anderson+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C+Scott+Kleeman+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C+Kelvin+Li+%28%E2%80%9818%29%2C+Nathan+Baldwin+%28%E2%80%9819%29%2C+and+Steven+Holkesvik+%28%E2%80%9819%29+perform+in+a+dress+rehearsal.
Zane Larson (‘19), Kurt Anderson (‘19), Scott Kleeman (‘19), Kelvin Li (‘18), Nathan Baldwin (‘19), and Steven Holkesvik (‘19) perform in a dress rehearsal.

Zane Larson (‘19), Kurt Anderson (‘19), Scott Kleeman (‘19), Kelvin Li (‘18), Nathan Baldwin (‘19), and Steven Holkesvik (‘19) perform in a dress rehearsal.

Lily Kime (‘19) | Chips

Lily Kime (‘19) | Chips

Zane Larson (‘19), Kurt Anderson (‘19), Scott Kleeman (‘19), Kelvin Li (‘18), Nathan Baldwin (‘19), and Steven Holkesvik (‘19) perform in a dress rehearsal.

Kristen Wuerl, Staff Writer

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A 21 year-old woman learns that her parents married her to a young prince when she was a baby. She must meet two men who may be her husband, but her parents do not exactly know which man her husband is, yet the woman is in love with someone else.

This was the plot of the spring opera, “The Gondoliers,” that was performed by a 35-member cast on May 4-7 in the Center for the Arts (CFA) in Jewel Theatre.

The work began last October when students auditioned for roles in the production. The first round of the audition process consisted of singing an aria, or a solo, in front of a panel of voice faculty.

If students received a callback, they performed dialogue for a potential role. Associate Professor of Music and stage director for “The Gondoliers” Andrew Whitfield, along with Professor of Music Edwin Andereck, made the decision to produce “The Gondoliers” this year.

“We look for operas that will suit the student performers we currently have, that will provide continued training in works of various styles and periods, and that will work well for the performing space and resources that we have at Luther,” Whitfield said.

The spring operas are normally performed in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall, but this year Jewel Theatre housed the opera.

“For this year’s opera, I was very interested in being in a more intimate space,” Whitfield said. “[I wanted to] choose a work that would match this intimacy, and I believe ‘The Gondoliers’ does this very well.”

Jewel Theatre is a black box theatre, meaning it has a simplistic set-up so the placement of the stage and audience seating can be changed. For “The Gondoliers,” the stage was in the middle of the theatre.

The actors performed in the center space while audience members sat on two sides facing the actors. Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and conductor for “The Gondoliers” Nicholas Shaneyfelt agreed that the smaller space provided different opportunities for student performers.

“Because we didn’t have an orchestra [this year], we had the ability to perform in more of a chamber music setting,” Shaneyfelt said. “This is the direction that opera is going now. It was a great experience for students to try something in a smaller, nontraditional space and to play to everybody surrounding them.”

Attendee Mari Rathke (‘18) thought the opera’s staging was interesting but sometimes made it difficult for the audience.

“It was sometimes hard to see and hear the actors because they were facing different ways from the audience, but I still thought it was interesting,” Rathke said. “It was very well done from the actors’ point of view because it’s a different type of experience.”

In addition to an inventive staging for the opera, the casting was especially unique. “The Gondoliers” was double cast, meaning that each lead role had two actors performing it on alternate performance dates.

“The tradition of double casting at Luther is well established,” Whitfield said. “We normally try to offer opportunities to as many qualified students as possible. Between using double casts and performing a piece with so many parts, this year’s opera provided many opportunities for our student performers.”

Shaneyfelt added that students had the opportunity to learn from each other by watching the performances they were not in.

“All casts are called to all rehearsals, so the cast that wasn’t on that night was still watching, taking notes, and learning about their characters,” Shaneyfelt said. “[Double casting] is a gift to singers because these roles can be demanding, especially as a young singer. [Double casting] is our way of helping students maintain and preserve vocal health.”

Shaneyfelt also enjoyed how the different casts performed the same opera.

“It was really wonderful to see what these different casts brought out of the same show,” Shaneyfelt said. “It’s incredible to think about what these students learned in that short amount of time, and I’m extremely proud of them [for it].”

Performer Isaiah Cammon (‘18) enjoyed rehearsing for the final performances.

“Tech week is always my favorite part [about rehearsing and performing],” Cammon said. “That’s when we finally get to put all of our hard work together and see what we have accomplished as a team.”

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