Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 2, 1973)
John Zei (Napoleon)
and Emily McKnight
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A brand new libretto and brand new
score is a double challenge for the cast of
Napoleon. With no other recordings to
hear or no way to learn how someone else
has sung or acted a role, it allows no
Faculty member John Zei will sing
the role of Napoleon with another faculty
member, Emily McKnight singing
Zei, a veteran performer, felt this is
probably the most difficult role he has
ever had from both vocal and dramatic
"The role is not only different because
of the mixed media involved but because
we see Napoleon in key moments of his
life, with all the peaks building to
overpowering emotions," Zei said.
Napoleon's mother shaped his life, Zei
said, as the opera shows her urging him to
return to V ranee from exile. Zei found
that the phrase "everything I have, I owe
to my mother" was coined by Napoleon,
'.'Two of the most obvious
characteristics of Napoleon were his
violent temper and oppressive moodiness,
but around them are lighter moments,
some very tender," Zei said.
Synthesizing these two sides of
Napoloen has involved deciding what the
libretto wants to project to the audience
and intentions of the director, according
Napoleon's memory of Josephine
appears in the opera in the form of
McKnight. "I want to bring a beautiful,
sensous feeling to Josephine," she said.
"Josephine enjoyed life and deeply loved
Napoleon even during her affairs with
other men. I try to develop her character
from a childish love to a woman capable
of great sincerity."
Characters around Napoleon are
characterized by the function they
perform for him.
"Joseph, Napoleon's brother, was
made king of Spain and given the dirty
work within the family to do. He is the
one to deliver the divorce to Josephine.
The r n was a social climber and snob,
not a military man, who got scared and
left," said graduate student John Gruett,
who plays Joseph.
John Brandstettpr, who plays one of
Napoleon's generals says he feels the cast
has had an ideal chance to see how all the
trappings, libretto, and score are
conceived and brought together, a chance
a classic opera wrth characters and music
already well-known doesn't give.
The battlefield of Borodino,
Napoleon's first setback, provides the
background for the events of Napoleon.
Tschetter and Wallis visualized the set
as they wrote, a stylized battlefield
retaining the vivid emotional impact of
"I needed a multicipity of playing
areas so the design first planned for that.
Then I started cluttering up various areas
making them suggestive of the horror and
confusion of the battle that has taken
place," Tschetter said.
The entire action of the play occurs as
flashbacks and flash-forwards in
Napoleon's mind, recounting the major
portions of his life and predicting future
Napoleon recounts previous
campaigns, coronation, battles, exile, life
with Josephine, relatives, mistresses and
the burning of Moscow and consequent
Napoleon and generals
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