Music Department to present duo of operas for fall season

by Emili JohnsonStaff Writer

The Simpson Music Department will perform a double-bill performance with a cast of more than 70 students. Under the direction of Professor of Music Dr. Robert Larsen, “Dido and Aeneas” and “I Pagliacco” will come to Barnum Studio Theatre on Oct. 19-21.

Larsen, who has been a music professor at Simpson for more than 30 years, is very excited to bring these operas to the stage.

“I am always looking for things to use as many students as possible because we (the music department) have so many talented people,” Larsen said.

The first performance, “Dido and Aeneas”, was written by composer Henry Purcell. This was one of the first operas written in English and Larsen feels it is a very important piece.

“Purcell is one of the most important composers in history,” Larsen said. “He was single-handedly responsible for an English-style that carried from the 17th Century to the 19th Century.”

“Dido and Aeneas” tells the story of Aeneas, a former prince of the fallen Troy and how he falls in love with the Queen of Carthage, Dido. Aeneas is directed by the gods to leave Rome, leaving Dido behind. This opera is based off the story of “The Aeneid” by Virgil.

The role of Aeneas will be played by senior Dan Jacobsen, who was very excited to learn that he would have a major role in this opera.

“I was shocked because this is the first role I have gotten,” said Jacobsen. “There are a lot of very talented people in the music department that could’ve gotten the part. I was very lucky.”

Jacobsen began researching his role and practicing immediately. He has worked with the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera for the past three years and draws a lot of inspiration from many professional singers.

“You see how happy those people are and they really do enjoy their craft,” Jacobsen said. “That makes me look at myself and I really want to see myself continuing training and singing for opera companies and working my way up.”

Jacobsen was also cast in the chorus for “I Pagliacco”.

Playing the role of comical Belinda is senior Mary Barrett. Barrett, who was also very excited to be cast in this role, feels that Belinda closely resembles her own personality.

“Belinda is young and happy,” said Barrett. “She is sort of the comic relief of this show.”

Barrett, who has been involved with many of the operas that have been performed since her freshman year, is also very happy to be working with Larsen.

“I think Dr. Larsen is an amazing musician and every time I work with him, I learn something else about music, Barrett said.”

Larsen will also be directing the Italian opera “I Pagliacco” which means “the clones” in English. This 19th Century opera, written by Leoncavallo, is about a traveling comedy troupe that makes a stop in a small Italian village. The main characters, Canio and Nedda, are husband and wife, but while Canio is jealous of Nedda’s youth and beauty, outsider Silvio begins to move in on Nedda.

Larsen feels that in many ways, “I Pagliacco” turns from a comedy to a great tragedy as Canio discovers the truth. The role of Canio will be played by senior Roland Hawkins, Nedda by junior Shannon Prickett and Silvio by senior Eric Bruce.

While Larsen is excited for the operas to begin, he hopes that everyone can take a little something away from the performance.

“Of course, I want people to admire the performers,” Larsen said. “That is probably paramount in my mind for students to have a way to exhibit their great abilities and talents.”

Both operas, which will be double cast, will debut on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Barnum Studio Theater. Additional performances will be on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2:00 p.m.