Fredonia’s Hillman Opera offers pair of emotionally moving works

The Hillman Opera will present a pair of classic works this October designed to leave audiences “truly moved emotionally.”

This double bill of operatic classics features Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” a signature work of the Baroque era, paired with Gian-Carlo Menott’s 20th century masterpiece “The Medium.” Sorcery and witchcraft – real and imagined – are at the heart of each plot.

Three performances will be presented from Oct. 21 to 23 in Marvel Theatre. Curtain time on Friday, Oct. 21 is 8 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. curtain on Saturday, Oct. 22 and a 4 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Hillman Opera Producer Julie Newell noted “the power of music, both instrumental and vocal, paired with stunning and surprising visual elements, can loft a ‘story’ into a deeply meaningful experience.”

“I would love our audience to be truly moved emotionally,” she said. “Both of these works present a story which is painful, but sadly truthful, and one with which an audience is able to connect. I hope that audiences will allow themselves to be transported emotionally by each story in a way which opera can uniquely provide.”

Newell said “Dido and Aeneas” has “travelled through centuries as a greatly respected and cherished example of early Baroque opera. Excerpts from this opera are on every music student’s listening list, most notably, Dido’s famous ‘lament’ at the end of the opera.”

As for “The Medium,” Newell said it is a “treasured work in the 20th century American Opera canon as it is perfect miniature example of all that made Gian-Carlo Menotti a great success.”

“(Menotti) transports a contemporary story line, of a family unit with distinct troubles, and sets them in a dramatic world of a Medium, Baba, who serves her clients falsely,” Newell said. “Somehow, he manages to tell a difficult emotional tale in absolutely stunning musical setting.”

Featuring original stage and costume designs, a full orchestra in the pit, and stunning projections, this production continues the long and distinguished tradition of Fredonia’s Hillman Opera.

David Rudge of the School of Music is the music director while Terry Beck of the Department of Theatre and Dance serves as stage director and choreographer.

“Terry Beck’s staging has brought a strong palpable sense to the stories, and I believe audiences will be held on the edge of their seat in many moments of this production,” Newell said. “Both operas include a significant element of physical choreography which is rarely included in operatic productions. In ‘Dido’ the use of dance plays a significant part in the story telling. In ‘The Medium,’ there is stunning fight choreography included.”

The producer said the production also has an “amazing design team,” with the scenery; costumes and lighting coming together to create something design “entirely different from anything ever presented in the Hillman Opera.”

Hyla Stellhorn is the scenic designer, Jessica Lustig serves as costume designer and student Patrick Tanner is the lighting designer. New said Tanner has worked in conjunction with Technical Director David Stellhorn; Peter Tucker, a professor in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media and Roslin Smith, a professor in the Department of Communication.

More than 120 students are involved in this production in all elements onstage, offstage, and as orchestra members.

“The annual Hillman Opera offers a superior level of collaborative efforts combining the faculty talents of the School of Music and Department of Theatre and Dance – together this year with faculty members from the departments of Visual Arts and New Media and Communications,” Newell said. “Students work side-by-side with faculty mentors in all elements of the production.”

This Hillman Opera production is sponsored by Joseph L. Gugino, CFP/ Daniel R. Ryel, CLU, ChFC/Gugino and Ryel Financial as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

Tickets are available at the Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at