The Italian Straw Hat Kicks Off the 2013-14 UH Opera Season With a Farce

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Usually, soprano Leah Bobby says, she sings the ingenue role. But in The Italian Straw Hat she's Anaide who "has very questionable morals" and basically is responsible for the whole mess that ensues after "a horse eats my straw hat."

Moore's Opera Center at the University of Houston has mounted a four-performance production of a farce written by composer and Oscar winner Nino Rota who is better known for writing for the movies: The Godfather, Romeo and Juliet, and La Dolce Vita.

The plot concerns the ups and down of Fadinard, a bridgroom, who travels to Paris on his wedding day to make sure everything is squared away. He runs into Anaide, who is married and very much engaged in an extramarital affair. His horse eats her hat.

"And that is really terrible," Bobby says. " I can't go back home to my husband's house. He'll assume I've been out and getting mixed up in another affair."

Mezzo soprano Nicole Woodward sings the role of the Baroness of Campigny and she says she relishes the character role. "The baroness is a really fun frothy character. There's not a whole lot of fun to be playing a romantic lead. I have more fun playing character roles. I like these types of roles; to have all the pratfalls and get all the laughs."

Both students said they were drawn to the UH opera program because of the sheer number of productions it mounts each year, which give them the opportunity to practice their craft.

Woodward got her master's in music at Florida State. She is getting her post-grad performance certificate student which is a bridge between getting a master's and going out for auditions, allowing her voice to mature. "It's a good way to bide my time, take lessons, be in productions, do a recital every singel semester and still get coaching and be a part of the academic process without just having to work at Starbuckswhile I try to scrounge around and just try to do things on the side."

The Italian Straw Hat will be performed at 7:30 p.m. October 25, 26 and 28 and 2 p.m. October 27 at UH's Moore's Opera House (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard). For information call 713-743-3313. $20 and $12 for students and seniors.

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