The Taming

Music by Paul Elwood, Libretto by Brian Luedloff
Inés Rodriguez Pedraza, conductor; Brian Clay Luedloff, director

Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, composer Elwood and librettist Luedloff turn the tables on the inherent misogyny of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, asking the question “who tames who?” All the wit and wisdom of Shakespeare with the memorable music of Paul Elwood wrapped up in a story of two strong personalities finding compatibility in compromise.

November 22 @ 7:30 PM, November 24 @ 2:00 PM, Campus Commons Performance Hall

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An excerpt from an interview with librettist and opera director Brian Luedloff and Tamara Markard from the Greeley Tribune: 

How did you come up with the theme #ChangingTheNarrative for this year’s fall season?

We actually started with the notion that we would produce Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All sometime this year in celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage in the US, and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, as this opera is about Susan B. Anthony and the suffrage movement, set to a wonderfully wacky libretto by Gertrude Stein. It feels like we’re still riding the wake of the #MeToo movement culturally in the US and, shockingly in the 21st century, that we’re still having something of a debate about women’s rights, abilities and value.  A recent guest on campus at UNC said “Art and artists matter because we’re in a cultural war where facts don’t matter anymore.” Only art can change hearts and minds in a culture that has abandoned reason. While we work for political neutrality in academia, we encourage our students to express themselves through art, so we believe when we see injustice that we have a duty to expose it and an opportunity to affect change. We’re lucky to work in an art form that has so many strong female role models!

Can you give me a brief description of “The Taming” and how it is similar and different from Shakespeare’s piece?

The timing was serendipitous that UNC composition faculty Paul Elwood and I were finishing up work on our world premiere opera The Taming, based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, but updated so as to turn some of the misogyny of the original work on its head. Together with Mother of Us All it seemed like a good fit for a season celebrating women. I’m setting The Taming in the 1980s in the fictional town of Padua, Virginia and the REAL town of Verona, Virginia (near Richmond and not far from the DC metroplex sprawl, so it has a suburban feeling); I think the post-Viet Nam war era during the Reagan years was the last real period of generally acceptable misogyny in the US – cultural and political movements of the late 1980s through the turn of the century started to call out that behavior and change cultural expectations. So, The Taming is about the meeting of two strong personalities, Petruchio and Kate, and the compromises they make to be together; instead of the male “taming” the shrewish Kate, it is her strength that appeals to him (and her father’s wealth). Instead of a paean to a wife’s duty to man, the final scene gives Petruchio a chance to chastise the other men for their treatment of the women around them, and gives Kate a chance to warn the men that “time’s up!”

What attracted you to choosing “The Proposal” for the opera festival weekend?

In considering a chamber opera to complement our theme for the year I remembered this wonderful short work I directed for Opera Steamboat last summer by composer Milton Granger.  It is about a woman with multiple personalities who considers a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend, but before she can accept, she needs to discuss the matter with her five, iconic alter-egos (a 5-year old, a sensuous woman, a security officer, Mother Theresa and the Statue of Liberty – literally). These different aspects of her personality reveal a strong and complex woman who makes a very modern and conscious decision about her future, told in a humorous story with whimsical and wonderful music.

What can attendees expect to experience at the festival?

This year we’re trying to provide an immersive experience for our audience: we’ve combined our production and performance activities into one festival weekend instead of spread out throughout the semester. In addition to two different operas, patrons will hear a few of our student a capella (unaccompanied) groups performing in the lobby of our beautiful new Campus Commons Performance Hall before the two performances of The Taming, as well as a chance to attend a pre-show lecture 45 minutes before each performance of The Taming with composer Paul Elwood and Mexican conductor Inés Rodriguez.  Patrons of The Proposal can stay after for a talk-back with the cast and staff, and we’re creating a fun environment inviting business from the bridal community to showcase their offerings in the lobby.

What are some things you are looking forward to at the festival?

A world premiere is a big deal to any organization, professional or academic; we’re really excited to present something to our audience that no one has ever experienced before! Being able to draw a thematic line between our productions has made it possible for us to collaborate with groups on campus and in the community, like the UNC Center for Women’s and Gender Equity, the Women’s Studies program, and the League of Women Voters. And since our performances are all on one big weekend, we’re hoping we can engage our alumni in the region to return to campus so that we can show off our gorgeous new performance hall.