From Studio to Stage: FIU Opera Theater brings Zarzuela to Life


For the first time, the FIU Opera Theater produced a fully-staged zarzuela at FIU on March 1 and 2: Doña Francisquita. It is based on Lope de Vega’s play La discreta enamorada, and tells the story of young lovers, Francisquita and Fernando, in mid-19th century Spain during the Carnival season.

It was a massive collaboration that began over 4 months ago and involved over 40 cast members, 20 chorus members, 9 ballet dancers from Conchita Espinosa Conservatory of the Arts Segovia Ballet Español, a 45-member FIU Symphony Orchestra, a team of artistic and technical staff, and support and guidance from the Hispanic-American Lyric Theatre.

Ballet dancers from Conchita Espinosa Conservatory of the Arts, Segovia Ballet Español

Zarzuela was already becoming a tradition at FIU, so the decision to bring Doña Francisquita to life was eagerly embraced by the students and production team.

“Over the past 20 years, the FIU Opera Workshop has presented several zarzuela showcases and concerts, working with organizations such as Opera Fusion and Florida Grand Opera. We selected Doña Francisquita, because it is probably the most famous and authentic of Spanish zarzuelas,” said Robert B. Dundas, Director of the FIU Opera. “It has its challenges as well, but the students and the faculty threw themselves into it and transformed into authentic madrileños.”

Act II: Aurora’s singing (performed by vocal performance major, Orianna Gutierrez) attracts the praise of various listeners.

Professional level productions are a part of the opera curriculum, including one fully-staged opera per year, as well as smaller-scale workshop productions and community outreach performances.

Since 1997, the FIU Opera Theater has performed more than 30 complete operas by diverse composers, including Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte, Handel’s Agrippina, Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, Hindemith’s Long Christmas Dinner, Massenet’s Cendrillon, and Kurt Weill’s Street Scene.

Choreographer, Marisol Moreno, teaches the chorus women how to authentically use their fans.

The program is designed so that students develop the skills necessary for a successful opera career through extensive on-stage performance experience, regular coachings, and master classes by acclaimed guest artists.

FIU students have previously worked with vocal artists including Helen Donath, Allen Charles Klein, Bliss Hebert, Adina Aaron, Janet Bookspan, Vladimir Chernov, Pamela Coburn, Katharine Goeldner, David Lefkovitch, Victoria Malipiero, Mikhail Svetlov, Carole Farley, and Sherrill Milnes.

Professional coaching staff teach students to learn the diction, musical styles, and interpretive traditions of each role. They also receive hands-on experience and instruction in dance & movement, character development, improvisation techniques, basic stagecraft, make-up, costume & scenery design and construction, as well as all aspects of stage management, publicity, and marketing.

Cast poses during rehearsal.


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