Celebrating strong women theme in UNT College of Music's opera performances and programs

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 - 08:18

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- From women making major strides in politics, to the military opening all combat roles to females, it has been a year to celebrate strong women. The University of North Texas College of Music opera program is echoing this theme for their spring 2016 season.

"I think celebrating strong women is a topic that for many reasons – politically, socially, and personally – has a real resonance," said Stephen Dubberly, music director of the UNT opera program. "We're excited to be a part of it."

Dubberly says theme selections are based on the needs of students and they select pieces that are not only good for the best singers, but provide opportunities for the younger students.

"We like to give a great variety of repertoires and styles," Dubberly said. "Once we looked at the whole picture, this wonderful theme developed."

The UNT College of Music opera program has had a difficult year. The director of opera, Paula Homer, fell ill and has been out recovering. In October, a great influence and supporter of the program, Margot Winspear, for whom one of the UNT performance halls is named, passed away. Dubberly says he is dedicating the season to these strong women.

The centerpiece to the spring 2016 repertoire is "Mother of Us All," an opera that chronicles the life of Susan B. Anthony and her tireless fight for women's suffrage. It features the UNT Opera and the Concert Orchestra, and melds together both fictional and non-fictional characters from American history.

"This is a different sort of opera. It's rather quirky," Dubberly said. "The text was written by Gertrude Stein. It does a lot of wonderful and eccentric things with language."

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and March 4, and at 3 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 6. Tickets cost $35, $25 and $15.

The College of Music's second opera of the spring season, "The Coronation of Poppea," features a beautiful and ruthless woman who schemes, murders and seduces her way to the top of the Roman Empire.

"When you think about it, Poppea is the ultimate strong woman, just not necessarily in a positive way," Dubberly said.

The opera, which will be sung in Italian with English supertitles, will be performed by the UNT Opera and the Baroque Orchestra. Performances will run at 8 p.m. April 7 through 9, and at 3 p.m. on April 10. Tickets range from $15 to $35.

"Women's Voices" will be heard at 3 p.m. on Feb. 13 in a compelling program that leads up to the February premiere of "The Mother of Us All", and will offer a variety of pieces that celebrate strong women. The free event will feature the world premiere of a song cycle by UNT faculty member Kirsten Broberg that includes 9th century poetry by Ono no Komachi, a performance of music by a member of the women's suffrage movement, the presentation of a tongue in cheek musical number that highlights sexism in the sports world, and a song exploring the transgender experience.

"There will be some really radical stuff," Dubberly said. "It's going to be a delightful, fascinating program on Valentine's weekend to give a shout out to women and the fact that over the years, they haven't always been treated well."

The "Celebrating Strong Women" series will continue in March with a visit from Dubberly's mentor Lois Alba, who will be conducting workshops and a masterclass. Dubberly says the 88 year old enjoys inspiring and teaching a younger generation of singers.

The opera program will wrap up the season at 3 p.m. on April 22 with a free presentation of the other side of strong women in opera through Project X: UNT Opera Scenes. Students will perform portions of 19th century operas that feature women as tragic heroines. While there has been a strong feminist critique of this type of opera claiming it exploits women, Dubberly feels that it expresses just the opposite.

"These are strong women who, rather than being victims, show courage in the face of amazing odds," Dubberly said. "I'm excited that we get to explore the whole picture."

All events will be held in the Lyric Theater at Murchison Performing Arts Center, 2100 Interstate 35E in Denton. Tickets go on sale Monday, Jan. 25. For ticket information for performances at the MPAC, call the box office at 940-369-7802 or visit the center's website. For a full list of UNT College of Music events, including recitals by faculty and students, visit the online calendar.

About the UNT College of Music

The College of Music is one of the largest and most respected comprehensive music schools in the world. Approximately 1,500 music students attend the college each year, participating in nearly 70 widely varied ensembles while engaged in specialized studies in performance, composition, conducting, jazz studies, music education, music history, music theory or ethnomusicology. Music students, alumni and faculty have made appearances on the world's finest stages, have produced numerous recordings with many receiving Grammy awards and nominations, and have written influential texts in a variety of areas in music scholarship. Distinguished University alumni can be found around the globe in top music ensembles, opera companies, universities, and schools.

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