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San Francisco Opera Center Presents Strauss' Comic Opera to UNC

In English, "die fledermaus" means "the bat." The comic opera by Johann Strauss relates the foibles of Baron von Eisenstein. His friend Falke arranges a farce at a masquerade ball to exact revenge on the baron for abandoning him at the previous year's ball and making him walk home the next day in a bat costume.

A web of deception ensnares wives, lovers and miscreants, but of course, in classic comedic style, suffering is minimized and revelry reigns supreme.

The performance serves as the season opener of the 2000-2001 Carolina Union Performing Arts Series, which in past years has brought world-renowned artists such as Dance Theater of Harlem and Bobby McFerrin to UNC.

And the Western Opera Theater is no stranger to the series. This year marks the fifth consecutive season the Western Opera Theater has included Chapel Hill in its three-month-long national tour, and UNC keeps recruiting the company because audiences have shown a surprising affinity for opera, Carolina Union marketing manager Lyndsay Richter said.

"Looking at ticket sales the past four years, opera is one of the higher student-selling performances," she said. "About 40 to 50 percent of ticket sales are student tickets."

Students might relate to the youthful quality of the company, which serves as an avenue for burgeoning performers to gain experience and recognition, Richter said. "The cast is serious about launching their careers, so they give a good performance," she said.

"It's really a display of vocal talent - the quality is not something you'd find on the street."

Each member learns two or three different parts of the opera, and the performers shift roles periodically so they can experiment with interpretation and keep from getting stale, Richter said. "Western Opera Theater is sort of their training ground - they're getting seasoned with road experience so they can go on to the Met or San Francisco Opera in the future," she said.

But the performers who will take the stage on Thursday night are no fledglings, said Jennifer Reil, marketing and public relations coordinator for Western Opera Theater. Usually between the ages of 21 and 34, all have completed the Merola Opera Program, required for entrance into the prestigious San Francisco Opera, and most have their master's degrees.

To create the sense of lavish opulence that seeps from the "Die Fledermaus" stage, Western Opera Theater hits the road with two 30-foot trucks packed with sets and stage equipment, a bus for the singers, another for the orchestra and an RV for the crew, Reil said.

The production will be sung in English with English supertitles, which both Reil and Richter said might make "Die Fledermaus" more accessible.

"If you are new to opera, Western Opera Theater is definitely one of the best companies to give you an introduction to the whole notion of what opera is," Richter said.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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