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UM Opera stages ‘The Light in the Piazza’ This Weekend

Mary Donnelly Haskell (left), Emma Johnson, and Isaiah Traylor star in the upcoming University of Mississippi Opera Theatre production of ‘The Light in the Piazza,’ set in 1950s Florence. The production, adapted from a novella by Mississippi author Elizabeth Spencer, is part of a campus observance of the author’s 100th birthday. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The beloved characters created by Mississippi author Elizabeth Spencer are returning to the South with a University of Mississippi Opera Theatre production of “The Light in the Piazza,” this weekend.

“The Light in the Piazza” will play at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The musical, written by Adam Guettel, grandson of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein, is based on the novel by Mississippi writer Elizabeth Spencer. The 1960 novella, which was Spencer’s most famous work, became a popular movie and, in 2005, an acclaimed Broadway musical.

“The Light in the Piazza’s” rich emotional score makes it notable among recent Broadway musicals. Unapologetically lyrical and romantic, it transports the audience to the 1950s world of Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara, Americans abroad in Florence.

When a fateful gust of wind introduces Clara to handsome young Italian Fabrizio Nacarelli, it’s love at first sight.

But Clara isn’t quite what she appears, and this story of how Clara, Margaret, Fabrizio, and Signor Nacarelli negotiate emotion, love, hope, and clashing cultures – and the acclaimed musical score that underpins their journey – won the show six Tony awards.

Blake McIver Ewing, an LA-based producer, director, actor, and singer, is directing the show in his role as Artist in Residence at UM Music for fall 2021. He starred in a 2009 production of the show in Los Angeles alongside Mississippi actor Mary Donnelly Haskell, whom he has tapped to reprise her role as Margaret Johnson.

“The Light in the Piazza” was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won six, including two for Guettel, for original score and orchestration. 

Tickets to “The Light in the Piazza” are now on sale, available from the UM Box Office at 662-
915-7411 or online at www.olemissboxoffice.com.

For more information, visit opera.olemiss.edu.

Staff report

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