Drama, music and wicked humor are just some of the theatrical ingredients that comprise Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld.” The two-act French operetta will be performed for the first time at New Mexico State University.
John Carlo Pierce, assistant professor of music in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he chose the opera based on the accessibility of the music and broad audience appeal.
“Offenbach had a wicked sense of humor that is very much on display in the music and dialogue,” he said. “The piece is a perfect fit for our opera program and the singers we have at the moment. By attending a performance, audiences can show their support for the voice students as they experience all the elements that go into an opera production: role preparation, character development, singing in a foreign language, delivering dialogue, and building sets and costumes.
“I think the story has universal appeal. The protection of public image is an important theme in the piece. Orpheus and Eurydice would like to end their marriage, but because Orpheus is a star in the musical world, he must stay married to protect his image. When his wife is carried off to the Underworld, he is forced to travel to Olympus and beg for his wife back. At the same time, Jupiter is having trouble keeping the rest of the gods in line and preventing them from dishonoring the good name of mythology.”
The opera stars current graduate and undergraduate students, as well as NMSU faculty members Richard Rundell and Carrie Klofach, and Pierce in the role of Pluto, god of the Underworld. Evan Dorbandt will conduct the band of students and faculty in the pit.
“Offenbach really pulled out all the stops in this piece, his full-length opera,” Pierce said. “The audience can expect to have a good time.”
“Orpheus in the Underworld” is presented by the Dona Ana Lyric Opera. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, with a matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 16 at NMSU’s Atkinson Recital Hall, 1075 North Horseshoe.