BYU’s Spring Opera spotlights Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”

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Audio Assignment Article

Credit: Photo courtesy of BYU School of Music

Cutline: Hero (Laura Snow) and Claudio (Corey Bennett, front) consider married bliss while Beatrice (Annalise Belnap) and Benedict (Jubal Joslyn) react. BYU’s School of Music presents its Spring Opera, “Beatrice et Benedict,” today through Saturday.

Info Box:

What: BYU’s Spring Opera, “Beatrice et Benedict”

When: Today through Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: BYU’s de Jong Conert Hall

Tickets: $6 per person, can be purchased at byuarts.com/tickets or by calling The Fine Arts Ticket Office at (801) 422-4322

By Courtney Newby

A classic battle of the sexes comes to life in Shakespeare’s comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

BYU’s School of Music will perform Shakespeare’s comedy in the opera, “Beatrice et Benedict,” by Hector Berlioz, today through Saturday in the de Jong Concert Hall.

The plot follows two pairs of lovers, Claudio and Hero, who are madly in love, and Beatrice and Benedict, who can’t stand each other, but are tricked into confessing their love for one another. All the while, the villain, Don Jon, stirs up trouble by sabotaging the relationship of Hero and Claudio.

Director Arden Hopkin recounts Shakespeare’s love story and said operas are about drama.

“Whoever has heard of a moral opera?” he said. “In an opera, somebody has to carry on an affair or die, otherwise it’s not really an opera.”

This storyline is a comedy full of wit and irony, Hopkin said.

“Beatrice and Benedict never want anything to do with each other when they are together,” he said. “As the story unfolds, the other characters decide that the two warring parties need to be drawn together because they are a perfect match. Although they deny it until the bitter end, they eventually confess that part of their resistance is actually the attraction they feel to each other.”

The opera’s dialogue will be in English with songs performed in French with English subtitles, according to a news release.

Hopkin said while operas are better performed in their native language, this presents a challenging yet good experience for students.

“On the one hand students have to sing really well and the music has to be good,” he said. “Nowadays, people want the drama of a show to be believable, so the skills actors work all their lives perfecting have to be developed by the singers also. The actors have to shift gears between talking in English and singing in French, with the right diction and inflections. They also have to make it overly expressive to make the story convincing. That’s no easy task.”

David Petrucci, who plays Don Pedro in the show, said preparing for the opera was a thrilling experience.

“I love the spirit of unity that tends to form during rehearsals,” he said in a Facebook message.  “At the beginning it seems some of the lines we sing or speak do not make sense, but with time our acting stops looking awkward and starts coming out natural, beautiful and fun.”

Petrucci said the opera has required committed practice.

“Preparation for an opera is very intense,” he said. “It requires a significant commitment. I have been practicing every day on the piano, memorizing lines and developing my personal interpretation of my character. I have learned great insights from Dr. Hopkin throughout this process.”

Hopkin said audience members can expect outstanding music and lots of laughter from the show.

“Some of the music in this opera is the most beautiful our students have ever sung,” he said. “There are wonderful duets and trios which are show-stopping moments. Even if audience members aren’t following the story, they will remember these songs. The actors have done a great job of getting inside Shakespeare’s dialogue and bringing it to life.”

The performance will be conducted by Auriela Joslyn.

The double-casted show includes Annalise Belnap and Jennifer McKay as Beatrice, Jubal Joslyn and Justin Call as Benedict, Shannon Fry and Laura Snow as Hero, Jordan Reynolds and Corey Bennett as Claudio, Jade Howard and Valerie Perkins as Ursule, Kevin Smith and David Petrucci as Don Pedro, Brandtley Henderson as Somarone and Ross Coughanour as Leonato.

“Beatrice et Benedict” is especially relatable to BYU culture, Hopkin said.

“This is about a couple that is dying to get married and one that wants nothing to do with marriage,” he said. “There are some that come to BYU to find their spouse and those that come to get an education and want none of the other things. The real connection to the story line, however, is that even those that don’t want marriage can find it.”

Operas bring written text to a new level, Hopkin said.

“The music raises the intensity of a simple story line,” he said. “Most people will excuse foolish stories in operas if they are backed with beautiful music, but no one will have to make compromises with this opera because it’s witty and has fantastic music. People will be carried away to another land, another time and will be transported there by the music and comedy.”

Visit byuarts.com to receive more information about the show.

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