Athens, Ga. – The Athena Opera University of Georgia Opera Ensemble will stage two performances of Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera The Old Maid and the Thief on Wednesday, Feb. 17 and Friday Feb. 19, both at 8 p.m. in Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall at the UGA Performing Arts Center. The performances will be presented free of charge and the public is invited to attend.
Originally written and performed in English as a radio opera in 1939, this opera by Menotti, an Italian-American composer and librettist, finds particular resonance today with its small town, depression-era setting. Commissioned by and performed on NBC Radio at a time when radio narratives were at the pinnacle of their popularity, The Old Maid and the Thief exemplifies the quintessential American Opera. A firm believer in opera for the masses, Menotti went on to found the internationally renowned Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy and its sister festival in Charleston, South Carolina.
“(The) Old Maid and the Thief fits with the concept that opera is for everyone—this opera is about average people dealing with a real, if improbable, situation,” said Ben Dawkins, doctoral candidate in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music who will serve as the director of the opera. “It lends itself to radio because much of what is going on is infused in the narrative, plus as a radio production there was a narrator at the top of each scene, and we’re going to incorporate that element as well.”
The fully-staged performances will feature painted scenery and backdrops, constructed by Metropolitan Opera veteran scene artist Jill Biskin and musical accompaniment on piano by Grant Jones, a 2009 master’s graduate in piano performance at the music school who will also serve as musical director for the production.