UNM-LA Class Delves Into 2018 Santa Fe Operas

UNM-LA News:

UNM-Los Alamos will offer “Introduction to Opera” 6-9 p.m., Mondays beginning June 11.

For those who are curious about opera, or wishing to understand the allure of the world-famous Santa Fe Opera, this is the perfect learning opportunity. The initial class will provide an overview of opera, then each subsequent class will focus on one of the operas of the 2018 Santa Fe Opera season. There may be opportunities to attend dress rehearsals as well.

Instructors Greg Schneider and Dennis Davies-Wilson have taught this class together for 12 years. They are both musicians, and each has had the opportunity to work with the Santa Fe Opera, so they are able to provide the students with an insider’s viewpoint.

Davies-Wilson is an opera aficionado who notes that he “has listened to his favorite operas hundreds of times.” During the first session he will discuss opera periods, styles and characteristics of opera, such as voice types, what happens behind the scenes and the production hierarchy. Schneider developed his love for opera while working backstage at the Santa Fe Opera, and he shares perspectives both as a musician and as a stage-hand.

In each session, Davies-Wilson and Schneider will share historical background about the composer and the opera, highlight musical aspects and weave video clips within the context of the discussion. Davies-Wilson describes the approach as providing “a synopsis with video highlights.”

The class will study:

  • Candide by Bernstein;
  • Madame Butterfly by Puccini;
  • Doctor Atomic by Adams;
  • The Italian Girl in Algiers by Rossini; and
  • Ariadne auf Naxos by R. Strauss.

Students may still register for Introduction to Opera for 1-3 academic credits or they may choose to audit the course. Individuals over 65 may take the class for $5 per credit hour if there is still space available on the first day of class. For assistance with registration, call 505.662.5919.

For further information on this or other UNM-LA summer semester classes, visit losalamos.unm.edu or call 505.662.5919.

UNM–LA is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities.

Notes on this season’s operas provided by UNM-LA Intro to Opera instructor Dennis-Davies Wilson:

Candide by Leonard Bernstein is a comic operetta based on the 1759 literary work by Voltaire, of the young man Candide’s adventurous trials and tribulations in the New World, as he tries to follow the optimistic philosophy of his teacher, Dr. Pangloss, to make the best of everything. Ultimately he decides it is best to just focus on making sense of whatever happens in life. 

Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, which remains on the top ten list of most popular operas, is the heart-wrenching tragedy that opera lovers come back for again and again. Passion, unrequited love, hope, abandonment, honor, and suicide are the themes that define this opera. Puccini’s sumptuous music allows the audience to experience the depth of every emotion felt by the characters.

Doctor Atomic by John Adams, will perhaps be of greatest interest to Los Alamos residents, as its main character is Robert Oppenheimer. The opera focuses on the intense anxiety and fear experienced by Oppenheimer, his wife, Edward Teller, and other principal military and scientific personnel, just prior to the testing of the atomic bomb as they contemplate all of the “what ifs”.

The Italian Girl in Algiers by Gioachino Rossini, is a comic opera about Isabella, a young Italian woman, shipwrecked in Algiers, who uses seduction and trickery to ensure that every Jill gets her Jack, including herself as she reclaims her true love, Lindoro. Rossini’s music is full of wit and charm, making this one of his greatest successes.

Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, employs the Shakespearean element of “the play within the play” in this opera within an opera. Strauss’s music for this opera is the perfect mixture of humor and sublime regal grandeur, bringing order to chaos, and happiness to sorrow.


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