MAILED: Feb. 14, 2001
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claires University Theatre production of The Mother of Us All written by Gertrude Stein and composed by Virgil Thompson uses music, humor and history to celebrate the life of Susan B. Anthony, a crusader for womens rights in the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
The opera opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, in Gantner Concert Hall of the Haas Fine Arts Center. Additional performances are slated for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23-24 and March 1-3 and 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
Dr. Robert Knight, associate professor of music and theatre arts and the operas co-director, said this opera was chosen because of its ability to incorporate graduate and undergraduate voices into one performance.
All 25 singers have solo lines and are onstage for most of the opera, he said. Traditionally, many of our operas have been by composers such as Mozart, but I wanted to find something different that could be sung by undergraduate voices.
Throughout the opera, the audience is presented with a series of snapshots of Anthony in fictional settings. Many of the characters are historical (John Adams, Andrew Johnson and Lillian Russell), while others are based on Steins friends (Jo the Loiterer) or are symbols (Chris the Citizen). Quotations from Anthony herself often are used, giving the opera the ability to educate and entertain.
The principal message of the opera women gaining the right to vote is illustrated through the characters and their interactions with one another. Throughout the production, the characters are a shell for the message that Stein is trying to get across.
The Mother of Us All is best known for its anachronistic use of costuming.
According to Knight, the time period of the costuming ranges from 1810 to 1945, so it is possible to have a male wearing 1850s attire next to a flapper from the 1920s.
This really makes the opera enjoyable and interesting to watch, he said.
Knight is stage and music director for the opera and and will conduct the orchestra for the production. Dr. Terry Allen, professor of music and theatre arts, is artistic consultant.
Tickets, available at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727, are $9 for adults; $7 for those age 62 and older and 17 and younger; and $6 for students, faculty and staff with a university ID.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Feb. 14, 2001