POTSDAM -- The award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble and Orchestra is set to present an uproarious double-bill, bringing together Giacomo Puccini's comic opera in one act, "Gianni Schicchi," combined with the modern sequel, "Buoso's Ghost," by contemporary composer Michael Ching, from Nov. 16 to 18.
The production will open with an educational outreach performance for area schools, which will be offered at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16. Two evening performances will be offered, at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17 and 18, in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater.
"'Gianni Schicchi' is Puccini's only comedy -- which is tragic because he writes such funny things in this opera. Poor old Buoso Donati dies in front his conniving family, and when they decide to hide the body, they stick him in the armoire, in a standing position! None of the family members trust each other so they are all angling for a better bequest," said Stage Director David Ward.
Set during the 15th century in Florence, Italy, "Gianni Schicchi" is about the death of the rich Florentine, Buoso Donati. After his death, his greedy relatives hear a rumor that Buoso left his entire fortune to an order of Friars instead of them. This rumor causes the family to make a desperate search for Buoso's last will and testament, only to discover that they have been disinherited. The family then asks Gianni Schicchi to help them change the will, but the sly Schicchi turns their scheme against them. The performance will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
"The cast is performing zany physical comedy and I've told them to 'go big or go home!' When the family mourns (all for show, they are actually thrilled he's dead), both Puccini's music and the cast's antics reveal the comedic jewel that Puccini crafted," Ward said.
The hilarious sequel, "Buoso's Ghost," was written by Michael Ching for Opera Memphis in 1997. The contemporary sequel begins with the final bars of "Gianni Schicchi" and follows Schicchi as he tries to discover the circumstances of Buoso's death. The performance will be sung in English with supertitles.
Led by Musical Director Kirk Severtson, the production of "Gianni Schicchi" and "Buoso's Ghost" features students and faculty from The Crane School of Music in the cast and orchestra, as well as students from Crane and the SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance behind the scenes. Faculty member Dr. Jonathan Stinson, baritone, will sing the title role alongside the students in the cast.
Stage Director David Ward joins the Crane faculty this year as a visiting assistant professor. He has previously served as the opera director at the University of Arizona and the University of North Texas.
Ward has directed for Opera in the Ozarks, Houston's Opera in the Heights, the University of Houston's Moores School of Music, Opera in the Rock, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and for the College Light Opera Company, where he has mounted critically-acclaimed productions of "The Merry Widow," "The Desert Song," "H.M.S. Pinafore," "The Gondoliers," "Hello, Dolly!," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
After singing for 25 years as a basso buffo, Ward received his Master of Music degree at the University of Houston, where he directed "Tartuffe" and "Le Nozze di Figaro," and began his directing career.
Three guest designers' work will also be showcased in the production. Andrew Licout is the scenic designer, Catherine Mason returns as the costume designer and Tonry Lathroum is the lighting designer for "Gianni Schicchi" and "Buoso's Ghost."
Tickets for the Crane Opera Ensemble production of "Gianni Schicchi" and "Buoso's Ghost" are $15 for the general public and $10 for SUNY Potsdam faculty, staff and students.
To purchase tickets, contact the Community Performance Series Box Office, located in the lobby of SUNY Potsdam's Performing Arts Center, by calling 315-267-2277, or visiting www.cpspotsdam.org.