UH Launches the Opera Winter Season With Frau Margot and The Elixir of Love

Nicole Woodward (left) as Kara; Emily Louise R obinson as Frau Margot
Nicole Woodward (left) as Kara; Emily Louise R obinson as Frau Margot
Photos courtesy of the University of Houston

Unrequited love is a mainstay of opera. The heroines in Frau Margot and The Elixir of Love, presented by the University of Houston Moores School of Music experience potions, séances and more as each attempts to keep her suitors, romantic and intellectual, at bay.

Thomas Pasatieri's Frau Margot is a local premiere and the first performance of the work since its initial production in 2007 at the Fort Worth Opera. It tells the mysterious tale of a wealthy widow, Frau Margot, whose late husband was in the process of composing an opera when he died. Many musicians try to get permission to complete the work, but the scornful widow goes so far as to hold a séance to show them that her husband disapproves of the completion of his opera. Pasatieri's work is loosely based on the story of Austrian composer Alban Berg whose opera Lulu was unfinished at the time of his death. His wife did, in fact, hold séances to seek his counsel, just as Frau Margot does.

"The music, like the libretto, is reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie of the 1940's. It has a lush, lyric sound that we associate with scores by the great film composers of that era," said the Moores Opera Center's Artistic Director Buck Ross. "It's very accessible to a traditional opera audience."

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Sydney Anderson as Adina; Benjamin Williams as Nemorino in The Elixir of Love
Sydney Anderson as Adina; Benjamin Williams as Nemorino in The Elixir of Love
Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

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Pasatieri is not a name known to most casual opera viewers and listeners, but the American composer studied at the Julliard School, where he was the first student to receive a doctoral degree, as well as the Manhattan School of Music and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory. For a while, he held the position of the artistic director of the Atlanta Opera."I've been wanting to bring Frau Margot to Houston since it premiered," said Ross, who is directing this production. "Houston Grand Opera's first new opera commission was The Seagull by Pasatieri back in 1974 and it seemed fitting to reintroduce the composer to Houston audiences."

Gaetano Donizetti's comedy The Elixir of Love returns to the University of Houston stage after an almost 30-year absence. Faculty member Lynda McKnight directs this show and chose to move the setting to a small Texas town. Nemorino, the tenor lead, is devastatingly in love (of course) with the soprano lead, Adina. His cause is hopeless, but with the help of a traveling snake oil salesman, he slips her a love potion and the hilarious revelry begins. Second year master's student Alexander Scheuermann is one of the singers playing the part of Nemorino.

"The show is funny, campy and heartrending all at the same time. I think almost everyone has experienced the heartache of unrequited love, and everyone has been an underdog at some point or another," Scheuermann said. "When Nemorino finally sings, 'M'ama, si m'ama!' in the famous aria ' Furtiva Lagrima, we get to experience the joy and triumph of winning the battle against all odds."

The Elixir of Love is sung in Italian; Frau Margot is sung in English. Both are accompanied by English surtitles. See The Elixir of Love at 7:30 p.m. January 31, February 1 and 2. See Frau Margot at 7:30 p.m. January 30 and 2 p.m. February 1. For information, call 713-743- 3313 or visit music.uh.edu/opera. $20.

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