By Matthew Criswell
The Fresno State Opera Theatre Program will be performing a new opera, “The Secret of Luca,” on Saturday and Sunday.
Each semester, the Opera Theatre Program puts on a show and usually performs a classical opera. However this semester, a brand new opera will have its world premiere at Fresno State.
“The Secret of Luca” was written and composed by Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire in 2011. Since its creation, there have been musical recordings, but there has never been a stage production.
“We wrote the opera in 12 months. We started in the summer of 2011 and finished in the summer of 2012,” Mack said. “By the fall of 2012, it had a concert reading in Cincinnati, some scenes were staged in early 2013, and now we are having the world premiere.”
Mack and McGuire first met when both did their undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University and were roommates at the conservatory in Cincinnati.
The opera began as a novel written in Italian in the 1950s by Ignazio Silione. Mack’s father then translated it into English. The manuscript was then sent to Mcguire, the librettist and was turned into an opera.
Most operas are written solely by the librettist and composed completely by the composer, but “The Secret of Luca” was a joint effort by both Mack and McGuire.
“Our process was cart and horse together. Sometimes he would send me text and I would set it, and sometimes I would send him music and he would set it,” Mack said. “Other times we would just meet and work together.”
“It was much more collaborative than the usual librettist-composer relationship,” McGuire said, “Usually the librettist finishes what is basically a play and then sends it to the composer, who starts at the top and starts writing in music, and we didn’t want to box ourselves in like that.”
“The Secret of Luca” is set in post war Communist wasteland in 1950s Italy, and through a series of flashbacks, the audience will see a love story develop. The opera follows a man who is released from prison after being held wrongfully for 40 years and was the only man proven innocent without an alibi.
Mack and McGuire would not give anything away as to why the man did not have an alibi, hence the namesake of the opera’s title.
“There is a very specific reason as to why he would not give away his alibi and you will have to come and see what that reason is,” McGuire said.
The opera will be filmed by cable access television and will be broadcast on local TV. There will be two performances of the opera. The opening night will be on Saturday at 8 p.m., and the second show is on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Dr. Anthony Radford, director of the Fresno State Opera Theatre, said the show is good to get those who have not yet seen a full opera performance immersed in the world for the first time.
“This is a great opportunity to see opera for the first time, as we do it in English and the show is only about 90 minutes long,” Radford said. “The other thing that makes this great is that the Wahlberg Recital hall is really intimate so you get to be right up close to the actors.”
For more information, visit www.fresnostate.edu/artshum/music/concerts/index.html