News Column

SHSU OPERA: A parody of operas using opera

July 26, 2014

By Winston Spencer Jr., The Huntsville Item, Texas

July 26--HUNTSVILLE -- Old, stuffy and out of style may have been your parents' opera, but the same cannot be said for "Orpheus in the Underworld."

The Opera Workshop at Sam Houston State University presents this extravagantly theatrical, overtly dramatic operatic comedy tonight at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center.

"It's sort of a parody of operas using opera," said director Rebecca Renfro. "It's opera lite."

Typically, operas are dramatic pieces that feature singing throughout the production. However, in Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld," this classical writer "plays around with this one."

According to classical mythology, the musician Orpheus was the son of Apollo, the sun god, and Calliope, the muse of poetry. Divinely gifted, Orpheus had the ability to move animals, stones and trees with his music. Orpheus went down into Hades to rescue his beloved Eurydice. He was able to persuade all the powers of the underworld to release her back to earth.

The legend is a theme of the supremacy of love and music over death.

However, in this satire at Sam Houston State, the story differs slightly.

Orpheus and Eurydice are unhappily married, and Orpheus is a third-rate musician. When he arrives in Hades, he finds the underworld not only has he best food and drink, but the best parties as well.

Eurydice is very reluctant about returning to earth with him. She would rather stay and worship the god of wine.

"In opera, there is something astounding about the human voice," Grimes said. "You train your body in such a way as to make the most beautiful sound possible."

Indeed, the level of artistry is high because it involves not only singing, but acting as well. In most cases, the opera culture plays to a different audience than other stage productions. Opera directors and actors also have a challenge of making the production believable.

"We were able to workshop this production with students. We updated some things, translating it into English so that a 21st century audience would find it hilarious," said Grimes.

Grimes and the young SHSU students say opera appears to be reaching new audiences.

"I fell in love with opera because not only are you hearing the human voice in its most powerful and beautiful form, but the subject matter ranges from absolutely hilarious to emotionally draining," SHSU junior Samantha Graham explained. "Whether you're performing or watching, opera is a very unique and moving experience."


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Source: Huntsville Item (TX)

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