Photograph by Steven Higgs

IU Opera Theater tenor Joshua Whitener and soprano Robin Federici are featured in Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom's opera A Wedding. The nation's first collegiate performance of A Wedding will open Feb. 1 at the IU Musical Arts Center.

You're invited to a wedding – IU Opera style. On Feb. 1, the IU Opera Theater will open the spring portion of its 2007-08 season with the nation's first collegiate performance of A Wedding by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom.

A Wedding, based on Robert Altman's 1978 film about a high-society wedding, was first staged at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004 and is Bolcom's third project with IU Opera Theater. Bolcom's collegiate premieres of McTeague (1996) and A View from the Bridge (2005) achieved critical acclaim with the IU Opera Theater.

Stage director Vincent Liotta said that Bolcom understands theatre in a way that few modern composers do. “The music that he writes is both accessible and idiomatic, by which I mean, recognizable as the various different styles of 20th century music, both serious and popular,” he said. “As a composer he has a gift for choosing the style that most effectively supports the nature of the play at any particular moment.”

Liotta, the only director who has done second productions of Bolcom’s operas, said that being able to work directly with the composer makes the production feel very exciting and creative.

“The joy of working on this production is that it is seldom that one finds in opera a comedy that is both funny and human,” he said. “Operatic types in comic are, generally, just that – stereotypes. The libretto for A Wedding works very successfully to create human beings with their own foibles and quirks.”

According to the IU Jacobs School of Music's Web site, "old money and nouveau riche collide" in A Wedding. The cast of 19 characters includes: "a flaky interpretive dancer, an emotionally stunted morphine addict, a communistic-leaning aunt, a hired wedding guest, an obsessive-compulsive wedding planner and an alcoholic marine."

“As a production, A Wedding is a unique combination of events that everyone who has ever been associated with affairs that go wrong will recognize,” Liotta said. “It is also a comedy intended for adults, so there is a slightly raunchy, slightly raucous flavor to the entire evening.”

Liotta and set and costume designer Robert O'Hearn have worked on all three of Bolcom's productions with IU Opera Theater.

A Wedding opens Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. at the Musical Arts Center (MAC). Other performances include Feb. 2, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. at the MAC.