The newly renovated Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center reopens with style in 2004, as the WVU Opera Program presentsA Celebration of Italian OperaFeb. 11-14.

The Opera Program joins forces with the WVU Womens Choir, the University Choir, voice faculty members and the WVU Symphony Orchestra for an evening of songs from the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, along with the one-act opera Suor Angelica by Giacomo Puccini.

The Celebration begins Wednesday, Feb. 11, and runs through Friday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee performance Saturday, Feb. 14, at 3:15 p.m. All will be sung in Italian.

Directors Robert Thieme, professor of music and director of the WVU Opera Program, and Kathleen Shannon, associate professor of music and director of the WVU Choral Program, are pleased to have the first WVU groups performing in the newly renovated theatre. Coincidentally, the very first performance held in the CAC Concert Theatre when it opened in April 1969 was also an opera, Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach.

We are honored and proud to be the first to present the first musical performances in our state-of-the-art theatre,Thieme said.

Act I presents famous highlights from Verdis best-loved operas, including Nabucco, Macbeth, La Forza del destino, Rigoletto, Don Carlo and La Traviata,he said.WVU voice faculty and special guest artists, including Augusto Paglialunga, Janiz-Rozena Peri, Cyndi Conner-Bess, Catharine Thieme and David Rudari will portray Verdis most famous heroes and heroines such as Macduff, Leonora, Violetta, Gilda and Rigoletto. The University Choir and Symphony Orchestra will support the soloists and will also be featured alone.

Thieme said Puccinis famous one-act opera Suor Angelica will comprise Act II of the evening. Set in a convent in Italy at the end of the 17th century, the story revolves around the somewhat mysterious Sister Angelica, a young woman of obvious noble birth who has resided in the nunnery for the past seven years. In all that time, she has had no visitors and has seemed pious, but unusually fascinating to the other nuns. Sister Angelicas life changes suddenly when at last her aunt, the princess, pays her a visit.

Suor Angelica premiered as part of a set of three one-act operas by Puccini at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1918,Thieme said.Our performance of the piece will feature an all-student cast, including graduate and undergraduate vocal performance majors, the WVU Womens Choir and the WVU Symphony Orchestra.

WVU students in the cast of Suor Angelica include: Krista Kiefski as Sister Angelica; Rebecca Mullins as The Princess; Andrea Shallcross as Mother Abbess; Joanie Brittingham as Sister Genovieffa; Jessica Mariotti as The Monitor; Jennifer Vanderholm as Mistress of the Novices; Laurie Racculia as Nursing Sister; and Ann Kincaid and Melanie Reif as The Alms Sisters. Other named roles include: Annie Hancock as Sister Osmina; Danielle Riggins as Sister Dolcina; Rebecca Ingham and Danielle Brake as The Novices; and Shannon Pugh and Rachel Henry as The Lay Sisters.

Designers are Assistant Professor Troy Snyder and Jamie Bosley, stage and costume design; and Colin McKeen, lighting.

Technical director is Victor McQuiston, assistant technical director is Gray Daniel, and stage manager is Robert Strauss. Sharon Goeres is Costume Lab supervisor and Paul Miller is production electrician and light board operator. Assistant stage managers are Benjamin Bell and Heath Harris. Lead flyman and rigger is Vince Sylvestor.

Tickets forA Celebration of Italian Operaare $15 for the general public, $10 for WVU faculty, staff and senior citizens, and $8 for WVU students.

For tickets or more information, call the Mountainlair Box Office at 304-293-SHOW.