When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1
Radio: KLPR, 91.1 FM
KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney Opera Workshop is stepping back in time for its upcoming performance of “The Old Maid and the Thief.”
Originally written as a radio opera in 1939, the UNK production will be performed in that manner, with an announcer, sound effects artist and original commercials written by a UNK student adding to the experience.
“How do you make an opera accessible in these social isolation times? You frame it within a 1930s radio show, then stream it,” said director Janice Fronczak, a theater professor at UNK.
The one-act, comedic opera will be presented 2 p.m. Sunday with a livestream available at unk.edu/music/performance and a live broadcast on the campus radio station, KLPR 91.1 FM.
“Performing opera in the time of COVID has presented numerous challenges for the singers, but these students have really risen to the occasion with their dedication and flexibility. ‘The Old Maid and the Thief’ provided the perfect vehicle of a delightful work for a radio and livestream audience,” said musical director Anne Foradori, a UNK vocal music professor.
Described as “a grotesque opera in 14 scenes” by composer Gian Carlo Menotti, “The Old Maid and the Thief” is set in small-town America in 1939. The plot revolves around Miss Todd, who lives in a modest but comfortable home with her maid and living companion, Laetitia. She is visited frequently by her nosy neighbor, Miss Pinkerton, who fills Miss Todd in on all the gossip in town. It is revealed early on that they have both suffered heartbreak by men in their early lives and are now living their “golden years” as spinsters.
Everything changes when a young man, Bob, knocks at the backdoor of Miss Todd’s house, asking for a handout. Miss Todd and Laetitia are both immediately taken with Bob’s good looks and charming, easygoing manner. A simple charitable meal becomes a lengthy stay for Bob, who is passed off by Miss Todd as her “cousin Steve” to avoid gossip and speculation from the neighbors. Before long, Miss Pinkerton alerts Miss Todd to the news that an escaped criminal has been seen in town. Immediately, Miss Todd suspects Bob is the thief, and she and Laetitia craft a plan to keep Bob under wraps until they decide what to do about his presence.
A bored Bob gets ready to hit the road again but is convinced to stay if Laetitia can procure some liquor for him. Laetitia convinces Miss Todd to steal from her friends and the church collection to get money for Bob, who has not requested support, then contrives a plan in which she and Miss Todd will raid a local liquor store. Laetitia convinces her mistress that this will prove her love for Bob, which he will return in kind. Miss Todd takes the bait. The ladies rob the liquor store, creating havoc in their wake. The next morning, Miss Pinkerton arrives to warn Miss Todd of the recent robbery, when they both hear a drunk Bob, enjoying the fruits of Miss Todd’s criminal activity. After Miss Pinkerton leaves, they try to reason with Bob, who is nearly passed out and cannot understand what has happened. They confess their misdeeds to Bob and tell him they did it to protect him. The plan falls apart. Bob is indeed not a thief. He does not love Miss Todd, nor does he want to run off with her. Crestfallen and embarrassed, Miss Todd decides to get the police involved by blaming Bob for everything and turning him in.
While Miss Todd is out of the house, Bob and Laetitia decide to run away together. But before they depart, Bob is resolved to live up to his unearned reputation as a thief, by robbing Miss Todd of her valuables. Laetitia is only too eager to join in as they clean out Miss Todd’s prized possessions, including her car. Miss Todd returns to an empty house, realizing only too late that this catastrophe was brought about by her foolishness and misplaced trust.
Cast (listed by hometown)
Kearney – Will Frederick, Announcer
Natoma, Kansas – Terran Homburg, Miss Todd
North Platte – Cassie Brown, Laetitia
North Platte – Maximus Wohler, Bob
Omaha – Hannah Petersen, Miss Pinkerton
Student Production Staff
Grand Island – Bryce Emde, Sound Designer/Foley Artist
Omaha – Emma Newman, Stage Manager
Janice Fronczak, Director
Anne Foradori, Musical Director/Conductor
Marilyn Musick, Assistant Musical Director/Pianist
David Greenberg, Sound Supervisor