November 21, 2007

Aria ready for some opera?
Sac State music students explore ‘Love and Death’

Rachel Burgin and Will Tvrdik in a scene from Dialogues of the Carmelites.
Rachel Burgin and Will Tvrdik in a scene from Dialogues of the Carmelites.

The two major themes of opera, as well as life itself, will be played out when the Sacramento State Music Department stages Love and Death at the Opera at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 1 p.m. Dec. 16 in the Recital Hall of Capistrano Hall on the campus at 6000 J. Street.

The performance will feature arias and scenes from nine operas—Les Huguenots, Carmen, Les Bavards, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Un ballo in Maschera, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, Orfeo and Le Nozze di Figaro—all performed by 22 students in the Music Department’s Opera Theatre course. The first part of the program is in French, the second in Italian.

Directed by Yefim Maizel, a guest stage director from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the program will be conducted on Dec. 10 by Timm Rolek, artistic director of Sacramento Opera, and on Dec. 16 by Sacramento State alumnus Ryan Murray. Musical accompaniment will by provided by pianist Roy Sanchez.

The approach of presenting a series of pieces from selected operas gave the creative team some flexibility with the student cast, and includes three large ensemble numbers, such as the Act I finale of Carmen. “This way, even if they don’t have the skills yet to do a solo, the students can participate and get very valuable stage experience,” Maizel says.

Andrew Nickell and Rachel Robinson perform a scene from Carmen.
Andrew Nickell and Rachel Robinson perform a scene from Carmen.

This is the first production under the new collaboration between the Music Department and Sacramento Opera, the region’s premier professional opera company now in its 27th season. Students get professional advice and nurturing from Sacramento Opera, as well as the chance to be “discovered” and tapped for roles in upcoming productions.

The collaboration was set in motion by associate professor of voice Robin Fisher, who has appeared in several professional opera productions. “It’s running wonderfully,” Fisher says of the collaboration. “The students are responding quite well to a program that exposes them to more professional demands.”

Love and Death at the Opera also represents a homecoming of sorts for Ryan Murray, who will conduct the Dec. 16 matinee. As a student, Murray conducted two Sacramento State opera productions. “He’s proven himself on many fronts and we are delighted he could return as a guest conductor,” Fisher says.

Tickets for both performances are $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased at the Sacramento State Ticket office, (916) 278-4323 or at For more information, call the Music Department at (916) 278-5155 or visit For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.