It’s opera time again at CSUB and the university’s music students are having a great time preparing for Thursday's performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Old Maid and the Thief."

“First of all, they love it,” said co-director Peggy Sears.

Sears said it takes awhile for student singers to adjust to opera after studying single arias in the studio.

“First, they are daunted by the demands (of an opera), but they find it’s freeing to have the movement and the direction,” Sears said. “And it does wonders for the technique.”

“I think (opera) enhances what they do in recital by far,” Sears said.

“The Old Maid and the Thief” is a one-act opera with four characters: Miss Todd, the “Old Maid” of the title; Laetitia, her maid; Bob, a Wanderer, and the “Thief” of the title; and Miss Pinkerton, Miss Todd’s nosy neighbor. The theme of the opera is summed up in the motto Menotti wrote at the top of the libretto: “The devil couldn’t do what a woman can — make a thief out of an honest man.”

That motto is worked out in the story of desperation, loneliness and deceit — as both Miss Todd and Laetitia try to capture the heart of the Wanderer, even to the point of theft and betrayal. The opera is famous for its arias “Steal Me, Sweet Thief” and “When the Air Sings of Summer,” both popular choices for solo recitals.

The students have an extra challenge in performing “The Old Maid and the Thief.” Menotti, who is most famous for his Christmas opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” wrote both the libretto and the score for “The Old Maid and the Thief” in 1938. He originally designed the one-act opera as a radio program, and in addition to the singers, included a narrator and foley artists who created the sound effects. Sears said the CSUB production is a hybrid: part “radio program” but also still a dramatic production.

“I didn’t want to give up the emotional quality of the show,” Sears said. “You know, Menotti was really big on the emotional drama.”

Sears said the actor-singers will perform much of the action on stage, but some events, such as a house break-in and a car driving away, will be established through sound effects. The Narrator introduces each of the 14 short scenes of the opera.

Sears said the students embraced the novel production.

“It was a group effort,” Sears said. “They got to decide a lot of things, such as how many props they would work with, that sort of thing."

Thursday’s performance stars Karen Ramirez as Miss Todd, Madelynne Heiss as Laetitia, Teresa Castro as Miss Pinkerton and Zachary Richardson as Bob.

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