What is now the Florida State University College of Music was founded 100 years age, in 1910. At that time the University was called the Florida State College for Women.
These two facts are the basis for the conception behind this weekend's production of Gaetano Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore ("The Elixir of Love") by the College's Florida State Opera. This production is the Opera's first in the newly renovated Ruby Diamond Auditorium. I'll have more to say about the Auditorium on another occasion, but for it's enough to say that the renovation is beautiful and the sound so improved that it is really an entirely new hall.
The production (by FSU professor Matthew Lata) replaced the military regiment of the original with the University of Florida football team and set the action in familiar FSU locations. Mr. Lata's productions always give you something to look at during arias, without distracting from the music. This production featured dances loosely modeled on dances of the period--very loosely, and the program notes begged pardon for the various historical inaccuracies. The resulting frisson between the music and the dancing heightened the playful atmosphere of this enchanting production. FSU Director of Opera Activities Douglas Fisher led the cast and the newly-enlarged (the pit is much bigger now) Opera Orchestra in a well-paced, lively performance.
In all the talk about the future of classical music, I've not seen much discussion of localizing the music, stressing place, etc. A production like this, with it use of school colors in the sets and costumes and the biggest rival's quarterback as the antagonist, would not travel, but the idea certainly would. Critics of concert music culture often talk about the music not having a direct relation to peoples' everyday lives (I'm not sure that's always a bad thing, but that's for another post), but this production celebrates an institution that is a part of the everyday life of most of the people in its audience, and it does so without compromising the work itself.
Very well done.