CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–April 4, 2016. One of the first operas ever written, Claudio Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppaea, will be presented by Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) on April 9 and 10 at Chicago’s newly renovated Studebaker Theater in the historic Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Not often staged locally, the opera will feature CCPA graduate voice students and the unique sounds of Baroque instruments, including a cherished harpsichord that was given as a gift to the University by one of Roosevelt’s earliest graduates.
First performed in Venice in 1643, the Italian opera follows the story of Poppaea, mistress of Roman emperor Nero, and how she achieved her ambition of being crowned empress. Free and open to the public, The Coronation of Poppaea will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 10.
Andrew Eggert, head of the Roosevelt opera program and scholar of Venetian opera, will be stage director for the CCPA production that features original costumes and scenery inspired by images from 20th and 21st Century films set in ancient Rome.
CCPA artist faculty member Garry Clarke, who leads Roosevelt’s Baroque Orchestra and Chicago’s Baroque Band, will conduct the performances. Clarke and Scott Gilmore of Roosevelt’s voice and opera faculty are music directors for the production that is steeped in period style, and features the harpsichord that accompanies singers throughout the show.
“I always wanted the instrument to be used and enjoyed by others, and not to just languish as a museum piece,” said 84-year-old Ellis Schuman, a 1955 Roosevelt music graduate who taught harp at CCPA, formerly known as Chicago Musical College, from 1981-85.
Schuman donated the unusual keyboard instrument, built in 1967 by American maker William Dowd, about four years ago after corresponding with Roosevelt music history faculty member David Schrader.
The Roosevelt professor not only plays the instrument but also keeps it available for student use in his office, along with an even earlier Medieval-sounding keyboard instrument known as a clavichord, which Schuman also donated recently. “Because of these donations, our students are getting a rich, historical sound experience,” said Schrader.
In the case of the harpsichord, it produces a sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed. Used primarily in Renaissance and Baroque-era pieces, including music written by the late German master composer Johann Sebastian Bach, Schrader believes pianists should be versed in how to play the harpsichord and clavichord.
“My door has always been open to having our students see, touch and play these instruments up close, and I’m glad that we’re taking the next step by allowing the general public at the Studebaker Theater to see this harpsichord in action,” said Schrader.
For more information about the April 9 and 10 performances, visit www.roosevelt.edu/ccpa or call 312-341-2238.