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News and Media

Oberlin Conservatory Sinfonietta collaborates with local artist on puppet opera

Nov. 01, 2012

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

De Falla master peter's puppet show
Photo by Will Roane ’12

Oberlin, OH – The Oberlin Sinfonietta, under the direction of Professor Timothy Weiss, will perform an inventive and colorful program on November 8 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall. All of the works incorporate unique vocal and instrumental combinations with strong programmatic or story-telling elements. The concert’s centerpiece is a one-act puppet opera by Manuel de Falla, El Retablo de Maese Pedro or Master Peter's Puppet Show. Pieces by Stravinsky, Bartók, and Tommasini will round out the program. Oberlin Conservatory voice students will perform with the Sinfonietta.

Life-sized puppets and artfully cut shadow puppets, along with a beautifully crafted theater, have been created for the puppet-opera production. Weiss commissioned Claudio Orso-Giacone, an Italian artist and print-maker now living in Oberlin, to create the visual spectacle and serve as the production’s artistic director.

Orso-Giacone has involved people from around the community to bring this project to the stage. Founder of Oberlin’s Big Parade and coordinator of the Apollo Outreach Initiative, his extensive experience in galvanizing community support has been an asset in making this an inclusive venture. Local artist Mari Kuroda designed the puppet theater set, which was engineered and built by Michael Reynolds, a preparator at Allen Memorial Art Museum. Rian Brown, an associate professor in the Oberlin College Cinema Studies program, is the production’s stage coordinator, and Oberlin student Erica Turett is the stage manager. These principals will also perform as puppeteers along with Oberlin College student Elijah Satoru Wood, and Jakob Hochendoner, a student at Oberlin High School.

The 27-minute opera, written by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, is a setting of an episode from Cervantes's Don Quixote depicting a puppet play. In the play, the protagonist watches a puppet show and is so drawn into the action that he tries to rescue the damsel in distress, only to destroy Master Peter's puppet theater in the process. Featured soloists are soprano Jessica Futran (El Trujamán); tenor Seth Nachimson (Master Peter); and baritone Rob McGinnes (Don Quixote).

The other works on the program are Stravinsky’s Pribautki, Bartók’s Three Village Scenes, and Tommasini’s Three Spanish Songs. Pribautki translates as “limerick” and is a song cycle inspired by Russian folk text sources and melodies, scored for voice and eight instruments; alto Elaine Daiber will perform. Three Village Scenes are Bartok’s settings of Slovak songs about every-day village life, particularly marriage. They are arranged for female voices and chamber orchestra and show some of his most imaginative orchestral writing; altos Margaret Nicholas, Rebecca Achtenberg, Francesca Shipsey, Daisey Peele will perform.  Three Spanish Songs, written in 2005, will feature soprano Lacey Harms. It is a setting of three contrasting poems by Latin-American poets Leopoldo Lugones, Ruben Dario, and Jose Marti. The lyrical and textured work is scored for wind ensemble, piano and soprano.

The concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Warner Concert Hall, located at 77 West College Street in Oberlin. Admission to the concert is free. The program will also be streamed live online on November 8. Viewers may watch and listen live by visiting and clicking on the link to the video stream.

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