Performing Arts

Opera Company, Dance Extensions collaborate on Offenbach's ORPHEUS

Collaboration is the key for Rowan Opera Company, including a first-time venture with the university's Dance Extensions troupe, and its production of the lively and satirical Orpheus in the Underworld on April 25 at 8 pm and April 26 at 3 and 8 pm.


Considered by many to be the first full-length operetta, Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld is something of a parody of the more somber versions of the ancient Greek myth (about the torturous romance between Orpheus and Eurydice) and originally written as a satire of then-current social scandals and artistic styles.


The Rowan production, under the direction of Marian Stieber, is presented in English and blends music, dance and storytelling to relate this version in which Orpheus and Eurydice grow tired of marriage: Eurydice welcomes her visit to Hell and Orpheus must be encouraged to save her.


"There is a thread of lightness and movement and fun," Stieber says. "We're definitely putting a different spin on it."


The participation of Dance Extensions, Rowan's contemporary dance company led by faculty member/choreographer Paule Turner, makes this the first joint venture for the two groups in Stieber's 15-year tenure leading the opera company.


"There is definitely a stronger element of movement here than in most of our productions," Stieber notes, adding that the approach is "far out there" between the dance and the design elements.


Faculty, student and guest artists have joined Stieber in shaping the unusual vision. In addition to Turner, the production features "wild" wigs and make-up designed by student Joseph Napolitano; original costumes by long-time Opera Company designer Fatima Lavor Peters; and sets by student Matheus Fialho Fiuza, whose work for the company's fall production of The Happy Prince was recently honored with a showcase at the national United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) conference.


Additionally, this Orpheus in the Underworld includes original translations of some dialogue by faculty member and Metropolitan Opera star Jon Garrison as well as new orchestrations by Rowan students for several selections. The Rowan University Orchestra, conducted by Salvatore Scarpa, accompanies the performance.


Stieber is professor of Voice and head of the Vocal Division at Rowan in addition to leading the Opera Company. She has earned critical acclaim as both an opera singer and concert artist, in productions of La Boheme, La Traviata, Le Nozze di Figaro and The Merry Widow and as a soloist with the Philadelphia Singers, Basically Bach Festival, Germantown Oratorio Society, Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra and Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. At Rowan, she has directed previous Opera Company productions of Carmen, The Magic Flute, Dido and Aeneas, The Pirates of Penzance and more.


Orpheus in the Underworld is presented in Pfleeger Concert Hall, located in Wilson Hall on the campus of Rowan University, Route 322 in Glassboro, NJ. Tickets are $10, general admission; and $5 for seniors, non-Rowan students, Rowan staff & alumni. Rowan students are admitted free with valid ID. For tickets and information, visit or call the box office at (856) 256-4545.