What: "La Boheme"
When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27; 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 29
Where: Sursa Performance Hall
Cost: General admission: $15; Senior Citizens: $12.50; Ball State Students (with ID): $5 in advance, $7.50 at the door
“La Boheme” might be an opera, but Director Jon Truitt said Ball State Opera Theatre’s new production is not just for aristocrats or Italian speakers.
“Sometimes people are intimidated by opera, which I think is wrong,” said Truitt. “There is so much art and so many things you’re entertained by that come from opera originally. You can clap, you can laugh… it’s not stuffy. I would expect people to laugh a lot and cry at the end just like any good romantic comedy.”
The show, which runs Friday and Sunday in Sursa Performance Hall, follows the trials and tribulations of a group of young, poor artists living in Paris in the 1840s.
Truitt encourages students to come learn about the art form and appreciate the value of opera. He said the piece is accessible to a variety of audiences.
“People who love opera love this piece and if you ask anyone who loves opera they’ll tell you this is a great first show to see,” he said.
Yes, this opera is sung in Italian, but there will be subtitles. Even so, the music and acting is so expressive, said Truitt, the subtitles might not be needed.
Music Director Douglas Droste stressed the beauty of the piece.
“La Boheme is some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear,” he said.
Though the Ball State Symphony Orchestra typically performs as an ensemble onstage, Droste said they will occupy the pit for this performance, in honor of opera tradition.
Though, being in the pit isn’t the only change for the orchestra. Droste said staging, lighting, sound delay and coordinating with singers will come into play.
La Boheme features a large repertoire of music that the orchestra and opera theatre members had to master in time for this weekend’s performance.
“[The orchestra] is doing good work to prepare it quickly,” said Droste.
Truitt said he modeled the rehearsal process after that of a professional opera; auditions for "La Boheme" happened last semester, but students didn't start rehearsing until January.
“The purpose of the students being here is to learn how to do it like professionals…I try to emulate that process with the understanding of accommodations for students,” he said.
Actors spent a month learning to sing the pieces in Italian, and spent up to two weeks staging the production and participating in a series of review rehearsals. These served in helping the students grow into their characters and get familiar with the staging of the show.
Senior vocal performance major Kelly Bourget said this has been helpful.
“It’s been a huge learning experience. I want to do this for a career, so going through the process has been extremely helpful,” she said. “This process has shown me what I need to improve and what I need to do to fix those things. It has raised my expectations of myself and my colleagues, and I know this show is going to be a success.”
For Christal Patterson, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in vocal performance, the experience has been “challenging but insightful.” Patterson and Bourget both play Mimi, a seamstress who lives in the same building as the artists.
“I’ve been forced to think everything through during this process. The piece has beautiful music, and as a singer, it’s my job to portray Puccini’s music well. I’ve enjoyed the journey from beginning to end,” said Patterson.
While students learn to work in the professional world, a real professional vocalist will be singing alongside them.
Galen Bower is a 1995 graduate of Ball State who majored in vocal performance and later attended Yale School of Music for graduate work. He's continued to pursue his craft professionally and will be showcasing his experience Friday and Sunday.