Theater Professor Davis to Discuss Adaptation in Vision Series Lecture

Posted: March 9, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Rick Davis
Rick Davis

Rick Davis will present “Words into Music. Or, How an Old Play Becomes a New Opera” in the next Vision Series lecture on Monday, March 19, at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. A reception follows the lecture.

Many of opera’s greatest hits, from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” to Puccini’s “Tosca,” have been adapted from dramatic sources, explains Davis, associate dean and professor of theater in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, as well as artistic director of the Center for the Arts.

It is the librettist’s job to select the most important elements from the original play, re-envision them in operatic terms, and make the language “sing” so the composer can do his or her work. In “Words into Music,” side-by-side performances of excerpts from play and opera illustrate the role music plays in storytelling and characterization and how language is altered to meet the demands of the operatic form.

Davis, along with a company of actors and musicians, will demonstrate how he and composer Kim D. Sherman have approached their new operatic adaptation of “Love’s Comedy,” an early work by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Prior to joining Mason in 1991, Davis worked for six seasons at Baltimore’s Center Stage as resident dramaturge and associate artistic director. He has directed theater and opera across the country. His long collaboration with composer Sherman includes the recently premiered concert work “The Songbird and the Eagle” for soloists, chorus and orchestra, commissioned and performed by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.

Davis is the co-author of two books: “Ibsen: Four Major Plays,” with Brian Johnston, and “Writing about Theatre” with Christopher Thaiss. His co-translations of Ibsen (“A Doll’s House,” “Ghosts,” “An Enemy of the People,” “Hedda Gabler,” “John Gabriel Borkman”) have been performed at leading regional theaters, including the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. He has also translated several plays by Calderón de la Barca.

Davis was educated at Lawrence University (BA) and the Yale School of Drama (MFA, DFA). He teaches in Mason’s Department of Theater and Master of Arts Management program, and directs for the George Mason University Department of Music’s Opera Workshop.

The Vision Series offers the community a chance to share the frontiers of research and creativity with practitioners from across a wide spectrum of work. Each lecture is free and open to the public, although tickets are required. See the web site to reserve tickets and see the full lecture schedule, or visit the Center for the Arts ticket office (Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). For information, call 703-993-8888.

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