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Independent, student-run opera will open this weekend



An independent opera performance group has been working since May, beginning with auditions, for its first show of the year. See part of the Act I Finale as rehearsed here. Abby Llorico

An independent opera performance group has been working since May, beginning with auditions, for its first show of the year.

More than 40 students auditioned, and each one was offered a part in the opera.

Since that day more than four months ago, the University Gilbert and Sullivan Society has tirelessly rehearsed, built sets and perfected their vocal performance for their opening production this weekend.

The society formed early last year after graduate student Will Perkins decided the group would be a perfect fit for the IU campus.

Gilbert and Sullivan societies have sprung up on college campuses across the country. Each group is dedicated to performing operas written by W.S. ?Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Gilbert and Sullivan created 14 comic operas during the Victorian era. Gilbert wrote the dialogue and plots and Sullivan composed the music.

Perkins originally talked to his friend Rachel Evans about starting a Gilbert and Sullivan society on IU’s campus.

“He had the idea that it would be fun to start something like that here,” Evans said. “He approached me and the two of us made this happen.”

Evans is a doctoral student in vocal performance and plays the role of the fairy queen in the group’s production of “Iolanthe.”

The opera’s plot centers around the main character, Strephon, who is half-fairy and half-mortal.

Strephon is in love with Phyllis, who is being courted by all of the lords in Parliament. This pits the fairies against the lords for the entirety of the show, with Strephon and Phyllis stuck in the middle.

“We chose this because it’s a lesser-known Gilbert and Sullivan,” Evans said. “We thought it would give the most opportunities to students because of how many roles it has.”

The cast includes 11 different roles and a chorus. Evans said they decided to double cast the show, meaning each role has two separate actors to ?perform it. The cast of the show is comprised of a large sample of the IU music community.

Doctoral students work alongside freshmen in daily rehearsals, not only practicing their vocal performance but also working on set design, costumes and lighting.

“The nice thing is it’s really spread in age levels and talent levels,” Evans said. “We have beginning freshmen and doctoral students performing side by side. You see the experienced singers mentoring the ?inexperienced ones.”

Each student involved in the opera has worked on every part of the show, Evans said.

Evans said she thinks getting the performers involved in the set design and costumes is a good experience.

“It’s neat for the performers to see the behind-the-scenes things as well,” she said. “Here they have to get their hands dirty and figure out set things and make their own costumes. It’s an interesting challenge we don’t get anywhere else.”

A full orchestra consisting of students from the Jacobs School of Music will accompany the performances of ?“Iolanthe.”

The group recruited students to join the orchestra and asked conductor Carlos Botero to work with them.

After collaborating with them previously in different projects, Botero knew he wanted to get involved.

“Anything students can do to improve and nurture their skills, I want to be involved in,” Botero said. “I also really love the music. It’s fun, sweet, witty and creative.”

Botero has been working with the students for the past few weeks, attending about 20 hours of rehearsals last weekend alone. The group was unable to obtain space to practice on campus but secured space in a local church.

Despite the struggles with practice facilities and funding, the group is looking forward to their performances, which are completely free to the public.

“It’s a great opportunity to see good singers and good actors working together for the pure passion of it,” Botero said. “There’s no credit, no grade, no money. It’s a special kind of energy that very few times happens in the professional world, and it’s just around the corner here.”

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