The IU Opera cast performs a scene in “The Last Savage” on Tuesday.
By Sarah Panfil
Dancers covered in greenery scamper around the center stage of the Musical Arts Center. A woman in a pink explorer’s costume and high heels runs across stage through the forestry in search of a wild man.
A moment later, the scene switches to a palace in India. Actors in glittering and elaborate costumes gather to see a caged man brought in front of them during rehearsal for the upcoming Jacobs School of Music opera, “The Last Savage,”
The semester’s last opera will open 8 p.m. Friday night at
“The Last Savage” is a comedic opera by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The piece follows the story of young anthropologist Kitty on her quest to find a primitive man, “the last savage.”
Kitty’s millionaire father wants her to forgo her plans and marry the son of a maharaja, an Indian king. Together with the maharaja, her father stages the discovery of the supposed “last savage,” who is really just a peasant named Abdul.
Mr. Scattergood, played by Reuben Walker, performs with Kitty, played by Angela Yoon, during the dress rehearsal for IU Opera’s production of “Last Savage” on Tuesday in the Musical Arts Cetner.
The opera is packed with wit, trickery and humor, as well as commentary on the culture of the 1960s, according to the
Despite Menotti’s fame as a composer, the original premiere in 1963 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris was met with heavy
In 2011, the Santa Fe Opera revived Menotti’s piece to an entirely different reaction — critics praised the performance.
This year much of the Santa Fe Opera’s artistic team, including stage director Ned Canty, will help produce the opera at
Frequent guest conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos also joins the School of Music for the production of “The Last Savage.”
Kitsopoulos has conducted at Carnegie Hall and led orchestras on Broadway.
At Jacobs, he brings his experience to a school environment. Yet, Kitsopoulos said, Jacobs manages to put on professional performances.
While Jacobs has done more notorious dramatic pieces in the past, “The Last Savage” is
obscure and humorous.
“It’s a good piece and it’s worth presenting,” Kitsopoulos said. “Menotti is making fun of the high society and their attitude towards the working class. It’s a satire.”
As an opera, music is crucial to the performance’s success. Kitsopoulos said the essence of the opera is in both music
From there, he added, the artistic team adds stylistic details like dialect. The opera is performed in English, though it was originally written in Italian.
“All these little things inform the style and approach, but I always go back to music and text,” Kitsopoulos said. “The music is called upon to convey emotions, to build tension, to be playful or comedic.”
Kitsopoulos also said “The Last Savage” uses music in an uncommon way. In most operas, the orchestra is used to establish transitions in the performance.
“Menotti in this particular piece puts the onus on the vocal line to change the key and take us to a different place,” he said. “In that way, it’s unique.”
The comedy, like the music of “The Last Savage,” also relies heavily on timing.
Maharaja, played by Andrew Richardson, center, performs during the dress rehearsal of IU Opera’s “Last Savage” on Tuesday in the Musical Arts Center.
“Comedy doesn’t happen by accident,” Kitsopoulos said. “(Stage director Ned Canty) knows how to teach comedy. He’s a virtuoso of teaching comedy because he himself started out as an actor and he’s also very musical.”
In many ways the piece is widely known as a challenge — little known, unique and comedic. The opera also features high soprano keys and musical challenges.
There are two casts for “The Last Savage.” Martha Eason, who stars as Kitty for the opening night cast, said although it is vocally challenging the role is well worth the effort.
“She’s stubborn and school smart but she’s not very life experienced,” Eason said, laughing as she describes Kitty. “This role is probably my favorite I’ve ever done just because of who Kitty is and what she gets to sing.”
Eason is a master’s student at IU, pursuing a degree in performance. “The Last Savage” will be her third opera with IU.
She said she chose IU in part due to its opera performances, of which there are six per year.
The Jacobs School chooses a wide variety of operas to perform throughout the year.
Eason said “The Last Savage” especially appeals to a
“This is like modern sitcom comedy, things that a modern audience will find funny.” Eason said. “There’s a duet about incest. I get to sing the word ‘superman.’”
On set, there are high expectations for the cast. Music and lines must be memorized and
well-rehearsed by the first
Still, the cast, crew and artistic team manage to make the experience fun.
“Especially working on a comic opera,” Eason said, allows for some playfulness during rehearsal. “We kind of just laugh at everything.”
Robert Gerold, who plays Abdul in the opera, is Eason’s counterpart. Gerold is a junior who transferred from a school in his hometown of New York City. He said he agrees with Eason about the appeal of the show.
“It is a throwback to an earlier time, and it’s really funny how it pokes fun at itself,” Gerold said. “I’m still laughing like an idiot at certain parts.”
There is a deeper meaning to take away from the opera’s satire, Eason said. However, both Eason and Gerold agreed that the highlight of the opera is comedy.
“You have alcohol, you have sex and you have leopard print bikinis,” Eason said. “It’s really
In addition to the opening this Friday night, “The Last Savage” will also be performed 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 21 and 7 p.m. Nov. 20. Tickets are available at the MAC box office or online at music.indiana.edu .
© Indiana Daily Student 2014