East Texas opera lovers will see a first when they attend the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music’s performance of Otto Nicolai’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” to be presented March 30 through April 1 on the SFA campus.
“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is rarely performed outside of German speaking countries unless a university opera program performs it in English, according to Dr. Deborah Dalton, associate professor of voice at SFA and the opera’s director.
“This is an SFA Opera Theater premiere,” Dalton said. “This will be the first performance of this opera in East Texas!”
Based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is about the escapades Falstaff, an old and decidedly rotund knight, who still believes that he is irresistible to women, Dalton explained.
“When he is in need of funds, he writes letters to a couple of merchants’ wives so that he may woo one of them and gain access to her husband’s purse,” she said. “Unfortunately, these two wives are neighbors and friends. When they discover that Falstaff has written identical letters to each of them, these merry wives decide to have some fun and exact their revenge.”
When they encourage Falstaff under the nose of one very jealous husband, Falstaff ends up being dumped in a cold river along with the dirty laundry, dressed as a woman, beaten and chased out of the house and, finally, tormented and frightened by elves, spirits and insects under a magical oak tree.
“The jealous husband is tricked a few times, and the merry wives have a high old time laughing at them all,” Dalton said.
The opera is selected each year to specifically fit the voices and experience of current SFA voice students. This year’s opera has nine major roles. All, with the exception of one, are double cast, with students performing on alternating nights.
“This gives 17 students the opportunity to learn, rehearse and perform an opera role,” Dalton said.
The audience may recognize the overture, which is popular on orchestral concerts, and the soprano aria, “Nun eilt herbei” (Come to my aid), is well-known for its beauty and its difficulty, Dalton explained.
“All of the music is very Italianate and beautiful, and the SFA singers are up to the challenge,” she said.
Several SFA theatre students are assisting with the production. Kathleen Easterling, senior theatre major from Central Heights, is costume coordinator. She has measured all 45 cast members in order to determine which costumes must be rented. Others will be pulled from the SFA costume shop stock. The set is more representational than realistic, Dalton said, and sophomore Isabel McNeil of Katy is designing and supervising its construction. The lighting design is by Katy junior Travis Wilson, who recently co-designed the Mainstage production of “Intimate Apparel.”
“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is an opera everyone will enjoy, Dalton said.
“It is a comedy with plenty of physical ‘bits’ and, of course, the music, the singing, and the orchestral playing are all gorgeous,” she said.
The opera will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in W.M. Turner Auditorium in the Griffith Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu or call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407.
Cutline: The Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music will present Otto Nicolai’s opera “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at 7:30 nightly Thursday through Saturday, March 30 through April 1, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.