You don't have to be a voice major to audition for KU Opera.
John Stephens hopes Kansas University voice students and KU Opera fans are up for a workout this school year.
KU Opera has scheduled five operas. And because of renovations being done to Murphy Hall, some of the shows will be performed at other Lawrence sites and in Topeka.
"It's our most ambitious season to date," Stephens, KU professor of music, said.
The season will open Oct. 8-10 and 15-16 with "Master Class," which he describes as "a great vehicle for acting and singing."
The opera is about a master class being conducted by opera legend Maria Callas. Mark Ferrell, KU associate professor of music, and Terrence McKerrs, a free-lance director from Topeka, will work together as directors for the project. McKerrs previously directed "Falsettoland" and "Xerxes" for KU Opera.
"(McKerrs) first came up with the idea to do it at a Topeka theater and use KU singers," Stephens said. "But now we're doing it both in Topeka and at KU."
The show will be presented in Swarthout Recital Hall at Murphy Hall and at the Topeka Civic Theatre.
"Amahl and the Night Visitors," a collaboration with First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt., will be staged in Dec. 10-12 at the church. A director has not been confirmed.
"Amahl and the Night Visitors" is a musical version of the story of the Three Wise Men. In this case, the trio encounter a mother and her crippled child on their way to Bethlehem.
"With the building construction, there's less access to Swarthout Recital Hall, but we also feel it's good to get in the community more," he said. "We'll use the church choir as the chorus."
In January, KU Opera will make it into Swarthout Recital Hall to perform Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte," and Richard Maltby and David Shire's "Closer Than Ever." Directors have not been confirmed; performances dates are Jan. 20-23 and 27-30.
"Cosi fan Tutte," which will be accompanied by a small chamber orchestra, is a comic opera about two men who test the loyalty of their sweethearts by disguising themselves as soldiers and courting each other's lover. The opera is written in Italian, but whether it will be sung in Italian or English has not been determined.
"It bears as to the nature of human frailties when it comes to fidelity," Stephens said.
"Closer Than Ever" is an off-Broadway musical about life, love and reality in the '90s.
The season's finale is Benjamin Britten's "The Rape of Lucretia," which will be performed April 7-9 at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 964 U.S. Highway 40. Stephens will direct the production.
"It takes place in ancient Rome and is a tale of the decadence of that society," he said, explaining that the story is about a military officer who rapes the wife of another officer, causing her to commit suicide.
" " At the end, the male and female narrators say there's more to life and offers a theological statement. It goes from tragic to hopeful."
This fall, KU will enroll about 40 undergraduate vocal performance majors and about 20 graduate vocal performance majors.
"We have so much wonderful talent this school year and the whole atmosphere is growing so nicely," he said. "The goal is to get those kids on-stage and doing more so the community has more to enjoy and the students more to do.
"" We think in terms of trying to provide something for all of them," he said, explaining how KU Opera selects the works it will stage. "We try to choose musically and theatrically challenging and appropriate works for the students."
Participation in KU Opera productions is not limited to voice majors. Auditions for the fall productions will be held in the beginning weeks of classes.
"Everything is based on auditions," Stephens said, "and auditions are open to anyone at KU."
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOPRANOS AND BARITONES
KU Opera will give voice students plenty to sing in these productions:
Tickets will be on sale at the Murphy Hall Box Office, 864-3982; Lied Center Box Office, 864-ARTS ; and Student Union Activities Box Office in the Kansas Union, 864-3477.