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April 11, 2008

Puccini's "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi" to delight opera fans April 17-20 at ULM; Dean Jeffrey Cass to participate

If ULM audiences look closely, they will spy ULM Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jeffrey Cass lending his thespian talents to the upcoming performances of Puccini's one-act masterpieces, "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi," beginning Thursday, April 17 in Brown Auditorium. Cass will play the role of Buoso Donati in "Schicchi."

The combined forces of the ULM Division of Music and the Division of Theatre will present consecutive performances April 17 – 19, each beginning at 7:30 p.m., while the final performance on April 20 starts at 2 p.m.

Cass good-humoredly explained the importance of his part. "My role entails the most difficult task for any actor – playing dead. It's certainly the culmination of a long career in the theater, in which I have had roles in the work of Shakespeare, Thornton Wilder, W.B. Yeats, and even Machiavelli. Yet clearly this is THE role. My only hope is that no one confuses my role-playing with my administrative philosophy."

Both one-act productions feature large student casts, led by graduate student Kathrine Schmidt of Carrollton, Texas, singing the title role of "Suor Angelica," and senior Scott Flanagan of Shreveport the role of Gianni Schicchi. Singing roles in both operas are faculty members Susan Olson and Claire Vangelisti in "Suor Angelica" and Louis Nabors in "Gianni Schicchi."

The full-scale production will include an orchestra conducted by ULM faculty member Dr. Jason Rinehart, sets designed and built by Gregory Bruce and Ronnie Bruce of the ULM Theatre Division, and costumes designed by Theatre faculty member Jerri White.

The "Suor Angelica" will for the first time regionally include a segment of the opera combining film and live action on-stage. In addition, the "Angelica" will be sung in Italian with "supratitles" in English projected onto the stage for the audience. The "Schicchi," with its raucous physical action, will be sung in English.

The producer and director of the two one-acts is Dr. Mark Ross Clark, head of the Music Division, and director of the ULM Opera.

"Suor Angelica" takes place in a convent outside Florence, Italy. It is about a Sister who enters the order seven years before the opera begins. She has a dark secret from her past, which is buried by her family of noble roots. She has not been able to speak to anyone about this, until her aunt comes to visit the convent with tragic news.

"Gianni Schicchi" is also set in Florence as a backdrop. The family of Buoso Donati mourns his demise, but they are more interested in knowing who will inherit the most "goodies." The characters, plot, and music make this one of Puccini's most performed operas, alongside his other "hits," including "La Boheme" and "Madame Butterfly."

The unreserved seating tickets are available at the door before each performance, and are free to ULM students, staff, and faculty.

General tickets are $15, and are available at the door before performances, or by coming to the Visual and Performing Arts office in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall during office hours. For more information, call (318) 342-1414.

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