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USM’s fully-staged comic opera, ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor,’ opens March 3

The Merry Wives of Windsor poster

The USM Department of Theatre and School of Music will present Otto Nicolai’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” on Friday, March 3, through Sunday, March 12 on the Main Stage at Russell Hall in Gorham.

Only once every 4 years do USM’s School of Music and Department of Theatre present a fully-staged opera. Although students perform scenes from several popular operas in a semi-staged Opera Scenes concert each year, the fully-staged opera with the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra is a special occurrence.

Nicolai’s version of the Shakespeare classic is a fully-staged comic opera, where the merry (meaning naughty) wives take control of Falstaff’s unwanted advances. The show includes some of Shakespeare’s most immortal comic characters, played by USM students studying classical voice, opera and musical theatre from Maine and beyond. The opera will be performed in English.

The show is directed by nationally and internationally recognized director Cary Libkin, with musical direction by Scott Wheatley. Fully staged with the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Lehmann, this production features choreography by Maria A. Tzianabos, costume design by Anna Grywalski, technical direction by Perry Fertig, lighting design by Jamie Grant ‘97 and set design by Christopher Price.

The cast is made up of USM students studying classical voice, opera, and musical theatre from Maine and beyond: Rachel Shukan from Woburn, MA as Mrs. Alice Ford; Helena Crothers-Villers from Brunswick as Mrs. Meg Page; Thomas Hanlon from Norton, MA as Mr. Page; Sean Arsenault from Scarborough as Slender; Matty Boyd from Medford, NJ as Dr. Cajus; Logan MacDonald from Mt. Desert Island as Mr. Ford; graduate student David Meyers, Jr. from South Portland as Fenton; Matt LaBerge of South Portland as Sir John Falstaff; Ida Santos from Pembroke, NH as Anne; and ensemble members, Andrew Carney from Millinocket; Kiersten Curtis from Waterville; Teremy Garen from Colchester, VT; Christopher Garrepy from Burrillville, RI; Markis Larrivee from Topsham; Megan Mayfield from Marlborough, MA; Celeste Mittelhauser from Gouldsboro; Nicole Ponte from Dartmouth, MA; Rachel Rivera from Cumberland; Benjamin Walker-Dubay from Kennebunk; and Ian Yarnell from Newport, VT.

Director Cary Libkin said, “Nicolai’s take on the Shakespeare tale begins with the title. Note that it’s not titled ‘Falstaff,’ Verdi did that. This opera is not about Falstaff but rather the ‘merry’ wives, Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Page and Anne. The entire piece is focused on the women, and it is they who solve problems, establish justice and have a whole lot of fun in the process.”

Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Lehmann said, “Nicolai’s wonderful music has it all; light, patter music in the Gilbert and Sullivan mold, elegant and charming Viennese style, and stately, ethereal chorus numbers. Orchestra members always look forward to the quadrennial collaboration with our opera and theatre colleagues, as it affords the musicians the unusual opportunity to play some of the amazing operatic literature."

Read Forecaster's preview of the show by Scott Andrews.

Performances on the Main Stage at Russell Hall on the USM Gorham Campus are at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays, March 3, 4 and 10, 11, and at 5 p.m. on Sundays, March 5 and 12. The March 5 performance is ASL interpreted.

Tickets are $21 for the general public; $15 for seniors, USM employees and alumni; and $10 for students.

Find more information on the performances or purchase tickets online at www.usm.maine.edu/theatre, or by calling the Theatre or Music Box Office: (207) 780-5151 or 5555.

Those needing special accommodations to participate fully in this program, contact Lori Arsenault, (207) 780-5142, loria@maine.edu. Deaf and hard of hearing participants: call USM's telex / TDD number (207) 780-5646. Note: The Sunday, March 5 show will be ASL interpreted.

This production is sponsored by Drs. John ‘90 and Elizabeth Serrage.