School of Music Festival brings Spanish epics and Stephen Sondheim to the stage

The Organ Premiere with the symphony orchestra from Oct. 28 | Photo courtesy of Michelle Vires

Priscilla Pozo and Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Directors

From classical symphonies to modern jazz, the Wertheim School of Music & Performing Arts Music Festival brought diverse music to campus life.

The music festival began Oct. 26, and the final set of performances will take place on Nov. 5. 

The festival is produced and managed by the Wertheim School students, who also perform alongside world-renowned professionals.

Two upcoming performances are La Ruta de Don Quixote: A Zarzuela World Premiere on Nov. 4 and A Broadway Legend: Sondheim in Concert! on Nov. 5.

Featured during the music festival is the inclusion of the Zarzuela program. Zarzuela refers to an extravagant, opera-style Spanish musical theater.

Robert Dundas, associate professor of Voice and Opera, spoke about the Zarzuela World Premiere.

The performance, titled “La Ruta de Don Quixote” is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ Spanish epic novel, “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. 

Dundas confirmed that FIU alumni from the voice program would be involved in the opera, alongside renowned Spanish conductor Gustavo Sanchez.

“There’s graduate students from the classical voice program, who are now professionals. They sing professionally all around Florida and in some cases all around the country. It’s inspiring to our students to see a successful alumni out there,” Dundas said.

Dundas elaborated on the structure of the performance. 

“Often in a piece like this, the orchestra has an instrumental prelude where there’s no singing. There’ll be a narrator to set the scene of where Don Quixote will be and who he’s interacting with,” Dundas said.

The approach to these preludes that Dundas mentioned is often to create a mood or the atmosphere for where Don Quixote would be present. 

In terms of instruments, Dundas explained that it would be a full symphony, so it would include strings, woodwinds, brass and a typical Spanish-style percussion section.

Dundas mentioned that the dialogue component of this piece, although present, is shortened to fit the narration of the production. 

“We’ve cut [the dialogue] down very short for this particular thing. Most of the dialogue that we hear in this particular piece happens while the orchestra is playing. There are people having a conversation while the music is playing in the orchestra,” Dundas said.

Dundas also described the piece as a melodrama, often accredited as originating from France.

Interestingly, Dundas mentioned that the manuscript for this performance was originally lost, as it was first composed in the 1970’s but never performed due to political strains with Francisco Franco’s regime.

The Nov. 5 performance will pay homage to Stephen Sondheim, the American composer and lyricist known for musicals such as West Side Story, Into The Woods and Gypsy. 

This performance will celebrate the Wertheim School’s inaugural class of the school’s brand new musical theatre program. 

Hailey Ferry is the graduate assistant in FIU’s new musical theatre program. She has worked closely with the program’s director, Dr. Stephannie Moore, to put together the Sondheim performance and is excited to join the students in the performance. 

“Being a part of the inaugural class of the Wertheim musical theatre program is incredible! We have created such a loving and supportive environment that allows for so much personal and collaborative growth,” Ferry said. 

“I can’t wait to see the future of this program and watch it expand. We are under excellent leadership with Moore and we are so grateful for her passion and guidance as she creates this new program.” 

FIU’s musical theatre students will be joined by Broadway stars Lucia Spina and Eric Jordan Young for A Broadway Legend: Sondheim in Concert! performance. 

Spina and Young boast impressive resumes ranging from performances in broadway productions of Kinky Boots and Chicago to TV performances in shows like Pose and Manifest. 

The Wertheim Musical Theatre, under the direction of Dr. Moore, will perform selections from Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and others that captivated audiences in a fun-loving performance of classic favorites.

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