The Rowan Opera Company and Dance Extensions troupe, accompanied by the Rowan University Orchestra, will collaborate for the first time in the satirical production of “Orpheus in the Underworld.”
Written by Jacques Offenbach in the mid-19th century, the operetta follows Greek gods Jupiter and Pluto, bored with power and creating disorder for amusement using the unhappily married couple Orpheus and Eurydice, contrary to the original myth of undying love. Under the direction of Marian Stieber, professor of voice and head of the Vocal Division, this production is her first time exploring Offenbach on a grand scale at Rowan.
“Everybody auditioned in November and there were different varying roles — large roles, small roles — and not just with music but a good amount of dialogue to memorize,” Stieber said. “So those who had those larger roles — in addition to meeting the class time — they had to come to Wednesday night dialogue rehearsals and to private coaching with me on their solos.”
Sophomore music education major Scott Garvin plays the lead role of Orpheus and promises audience members a “raunchy” and “colorful” show.
“This opera is larger than life, so none of our characters are realistic,” Garvin said. “So these past few months, I’ve been trying to discover how far I can go with Orpheus. Each rehearsal, I leave knowing a little more about him and how to portray his spirit.”
While the cast members have known each other for some time working in the same major, the collaboration was an opportunity for actors and dancers to meet and bring the show to a new level.
“The most exciting thing about this production, though, is the opportunity to work with Dance Extensions,” Garvin said.
The company has been rehearsing the whole semester alongside Dance Extensions, led by faculty member and choreographer Paule Turner. The collaboration was a first for the two groups and presented Turner with new and unique challenges.
“So many elements [came] together,” Turner said. “It wasn’t just us working on dancing. It was us understanding the story, background history of the gods and really respecting this is opera. So therefore, the singing is in the foreground and how we support that has been interesting.”
The opportunity also brought the troupe first-hand experience working with a live orchestra, conducted by professor Salvatore Scarpa.
“One of the big advantages of it is working with the live orchestra, which is very rare for dancers unless you’re in the ballet,” Turner said. “It’s such a treat.”
While the dialogue is written in French, faculty member and Metropolitan Opera star Jon Garrison translated the text for the production. Audience members will be able to follow along through supertitles displayed across the stage.
Stieber said audiences will enjoy the show’s comedic elements and live music.
“I encourage students to come out and support their fellow students who have spent so much time on this,” Stieber said. “It is a comedy [with] some pretty funny things in it and I think it would be an enjoyable evening for someone to come spend their time hearing live music.”
“Orpheus in the Underworld” will be performed at Pfleeger Concert Hall April 25 at 8 p.m. and April 26 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for seniors, non-Rowan students, alumni and staff. Rowan students are admitted for free with a valid ID.
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