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Opera Feb 

Manchester offers lighthearted Gianni Schicchi opera Feb. 12

The Manchester University Music Department presents Gianni Schicchi at 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12 in Cordier Auditorium on the North Manchester campus.

Even if you don’t “do” opera, this one just might be for you. It’s fast-paced, it’s funny, it’s in English, and it comes in at a whisker under an hour.

Giacomo Puccini’s one-act opera was the focus of MU’s Opera Workshop during the January short session. It is directed by Debra Lynn, MU director of choral organizations and vocal studies.

Dr Debra Lynn photo“Opera Workshop allows any student at Manchester who wants to explore opera to have that opportunity. Students and community members audition and indicate their interest level in different sized roles,” Lynn said. “Once I know the talent pool and interest pool I have for the class, I then take up the daunting task of selecting either a single opera or several scenes that match the people I have.”

This time, the cast includes Manchester students, alumni, and employees, as well as area residents.

“If you can put together a great cast that blends well vocally and can draw out the best acting from one another, then everything falls into place beautifully,” Lynn said. “Gianni Schicchi was just the right fit for the people who auditioned, and I’m so thrilled to see everyone learning and growing – whether they are operatic novices or highly trained singers.”

Putting on an opera production during a pandemic comes with challenges. Three cast members were out at separate times with COVID-19.

“The added difficulty of singing with masks makes this a really interesting production,” said Ben Tipton, a senior vocal performance major from Dayton, Ohio. Tipton was in Manchester’s last opera, The Invention of Morel, in February 2020. “In past productions the difficult part for us was just the music, but with this production, the masks have made it much harder to hear each other and the piano.”

Mackenzie Sheridan, a sophomore vocal performance major from Wabash, Indiana, is playing Zita, one of the main characters. “I was nervous at first because I have never performed in a musical before, let alone an opera! However, I have grown so much in these past few weeks, and I am really excited to share my vision of Zita to the public and perform alongside this amazing cast,” she said.

General admission is $5. It is free for MU students, faculty and staff. Masks and social distancing are required. 

Jennifer Wagner is assistant director and stage manager. She is an MU senior vocal performance and biology-chemistry major from Oley, Pennsylvania. The opera is accompanied by Pamela Haynes, MU director of piano studies.

Cast members

Gianni Schicchi, Mason Kniola, baritone
Lauretta (his daughter), Jennifer Wagner, soprano

Relatives of Buoso Donati:

  • Zita (Buoso’s cousin – the “old woman”), Mackenzie Sheridan, mezzo-soprano
  • Rinuccio (Zita’s nephew, in love with Lauretta), Ben Tipton, tenor
  • Gherardo (Buoso’s nephew), Robert Bucher, tenor
  • Nella (Gherardo’s wife), Mikayla Stanley, soprano
  • Gherardino (Gherardo and Nella’s young son), Renae Walker-Zamora, mezzo-soprano
  • Betto, of Signa (Buoso’s brother-in-law) , Barry Drudge, baritone
  • Simone (Buoso’s cousin), Andrew Haff, bass-baritone
  • Marco (Simone’s son), Joel Waggy, baritone
  • La Ciesca (Marco’s wife), Elizabeth Schmidt, soprano

    Doctor Spinelloccio (a physician), Scott Humphries, baritone
    Amantia di Nicolao (a power-hungry lawyer), Shannon Lee, soprano
    Pinellina (a shoemaker), Drēma Drudge, soprano
    Guccio (a dyer), Orion Toepfer, bass
    Buoso Donati (non-singing – “The Dead Guy”), Orion Toepfer

    For the media

    If you have questions, please contact Dr. Lynn at
    A composer who will be conducting for the third time this spring at Carnegie Hall, she is a collaborative musical storyteller. Learn more about Dr. Lynn.

    Cutline: Student performers (from left) top: Mackenzie Sheridan and Mason Kniola; front: Ben Tipton and Jennifer Wagner in front.
Music at Manchester

Jennifer Wagner is a student assistant in the Office of Communications and Media Relations and collected information and comments for the press release.

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Manchester University respects the infinite worth of every individual and graduates persons of ability and conviction who draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.

January 2022