Lighthearted 'Die Fledermaus' just what audiences need
Contact: Christina Chapple
Click on thumbnail for high resolution photo(1) (2)
(1) HANDS ON DIRECTING – Rachel Harris, guest director for the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s March 18-21 production of “Die Fledermaus,” gives some hands-on direction to cast member Dustin Johnson of Covington.
(2) MUSICAL DIRECTOR – Charles Effler, director of the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop at Southeastern Louisiana University, accompanies a rehearsal for the workshop’s March 18-21 production of “Die Fledermaus.” Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show will be available at the door of the Pottle Music Building Auditorium.
Harris is guest directing the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s version of Straus’s well-loved classic, which will be staged March 18-21, 7:30 p.m., at the university’s Pottle Music Building Auditorium.
This is the second time that workshop Director Charles Effler has tapped Harris, a classically trained singer who has chosen directing over performing, to guide the stagecraft of a Southeastern opera. She was at the helm of last spring’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” The production was honored for “Creative Achievement in Opera” at the recent New Orleans’ “Big Easy” awards.
Harris has bachelor’s and master’s degree in voice performance and opera from Fredonia State University and Binghamton University, respectively, and earned her doctorate at Louisiana State University in 2005. She has sung with the Syracuse Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, Operafest of Great Woods, Operafest of New Hampshire and the Tanglewood Music Center, and she has been a soloist with the New Bedford Symphony, Concord Symphony and Chorale and the Rhode Island Youth Symphony.
“Directing has always been my passion. It’s a much larger piece of the creative pie,” she said. When she and her husband, who works at LSU, settled in the area, she began looking for freelance directing gigs in the area. Southeastern’s opera program, headed by Effler since 2000, was one of those she contacted. And when Effler needed to replace a guest director last year, he called her.
Effler, who handles conducting and musical director duties along with heading the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop and producing its shows, said Harris is a good match for a program that puts mainly undergraduates in the spotlight.
“It’s nice to have a singer as a stage director because she understands” what the students are thinking, fearing, and facing, he said.
“Deciphering what I need to teach each student individually” is her biggest challenge, Harris said. “Everyone is at a different level. Some students need a slight push and some need you to grab their hand and say ‘right, left, kick.’
“But, I love putting those puzzles together,” she added. “It’s fun to get in there and teach it and watch them improve.”
Harris said she was happy to return to Southeastern this year after the success of last year’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“It’s wonderful, it’s a nice team,” she said of the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop. “I’ve worked with very talented students, very accomplished in their acting and singing.”
Southeastern voice majors, she added, are benefiting greatly from “the opportunity to put their feet on the stage.”
“Chuck gives them show after show after show to really work their craft,” she said. “In a larger school you don’t get your feet on the stage as much and you don’t get that experience. They are going to go on to their master’s degrees, and they are going to have a resume.”
Effler said that in choosing a show, he always keeps in mind what will benefit his students. “It’s educational theater,” he said. “I try to figure out what each student can accomplish -- even if they don’t know they can accomplish it! Then I take that pool of talent and find a show that fits it.”
Happily, “Die Fledermaus” also is one of his favorite operas. “Audiences love it, the singers love it,” he said.
“The cast will be standing backstage while someone else is doing a scene and their toes are tapping and they are dancing around to the music that’s not even theirs,” he said. “It’s just infectious music, really beautiful and lots of fun. The story is also very fun. It’s perfectly ridiculous, but ridiculous in a very fun way.”
The story centers on Eisenstein (Brandon Wear of Slidell), who is supposed to be spending the next eight days behind bars. But his friend, Dr. Falke (Colby McCurdy of Slidell), is out to avenge a practical joke Eisenstein has played on him. He tells Eisenstein he can head to the slammer later and attend Prince Orlofsky's (Jane Rownd of Hammond) grand party instead, in the guise of a marquis.
The doctor has also woven Eisenstein's wife, Rosalinda (Southeastern vocal coordinator Alissa Rowe and Danielle Willie of Ponchatoula), and her chambermaid, Adele (Cassandra Arnold of Bedico and Bridget Lyons of Ponchatoula), into the plot, having the maid attend as an actress and the wife as a masked Hungarian countess.
Eisenstein ends up hitting on his own wife, who herself narrowly escapes getting caught in her own tryst with tenor Alfred (Dustin Johnson of Covington) by having the new warden mistakenly arrest the singing Romeo.
In the end, they all toast champagne and have a good laugh at Eisenstein's expense.
Tickets for “Die Fledermaus” will be sold at the door, beginning one hour prior to each performance. Tickets are $15, adults; $12, senior citizens, Southeastern faculty, staff, alumni and non-Southeastern students. Southeastern students admitted free with their university ID.
For additional information, contact the Department of Music and Dramatic Arts, 985-549-2184.