Southern Illinois University Carbondale SCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
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Curtain Poised for Gounod's 'Faust': Joel Fits Devil's Part Without Villainy
Curtain Poised for Gounod's 'Faust': Joel Fits Devil's Part Without Villainy
TitleCurtain Poised for Gounod's 'Faust': Joel Fits Devil's Part Without Villainy
CreatorStein, Floyd H.
DescriptionFeature article about Joel Thomas, one of the lead performers in the Opera, Faust and former student protégé of Marjorie Lawrence. Thomas was a native of Carbondale, Illinois and graduate of Attucks high school. He went on to play football at Southern Illinois university, working as a local fireman to put himself through college. With auditions facilitated by his former instructor, Marjorie Lawrence, he went on to study on the West coast and subsequently in Europe. The author believes Thomas is a natural for the role of Mephistopheles in Faust.
CollectionSCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
SubcollectionKatherine Dunham Papers
Original Publication SourceDaily Egyptian
Place WrittenCarbondale, IL
Subjects -titlesFaust
Subjects -peopleThomas, Joel ; Lawrence, Marjorie
Other topicsMetropolitan Opera (New York) ; Aida ; Attucks High School (Carbondale, IL) ; Vienna, Austria Musikakademie
Collection ID/Box#FP20_7_F1DUNHAM_B103_F17_07b
Rights StatementFor permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this image, please contact the Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Phone: + 1 (618) 453-2516. Email:
Pose 3
Curtain Poised for Gounod's Tausf
Joel Fits DeviVs Part Without Villainy
If you sit and talk with Joel Thomas at any length, you become aware that he seems Just Ihe right person to por¬ tray Mephistophies. the Dev¬ il in Gounod's Opera "Faust."
He has all the physical at¬ tributes usually associated with character!nations of the devil—high forehead, wide-set eyes, high cheekbones, sharp chin, and a tall, solid phy¬ sique.
Thomas will sing the Me¬ phistophies role in the Uni¬ versity Opera Workshop pro¬ duction of Faust next week.
When you mention his re¬ semblance to Che devil, a slow smile breaks across his mouth.
"I've been told several times I'm type cast, " he tells you. "I juGt have the sing¬ ing personality of a villain."
But there Is nothing vil¬ lainous about this Carbondale native and former Southern Il¬ linois University studentwho came here from Austria to sing Mephistophies.
And yet, he must be type cast. The role he portrays requires a singer of impos¬ ing stature, as well as one with an excellent voice.
A basketball player at the old Attucks High School in Carbondale and a football full¬ back during his University days here, Thomas weighs 225 pounds and stands six-feet three Inches,
As a singer, he is one of those rare men who is able to sing the bass required of Mephistophies and have the baritone range for such roles as Amonasro of "Aida" and of Kigoletto, both of which he has done.
Thomas has been singing since he was in the sixth grade at the Attucks School and started winning pri^esfor his offering of boy's low solos.
Employment as a Car¬ bondale firefighter and four years' service In the Navy interrupted his SIU studies. He finally left the University in 1962.
But before leaving, he studied with Marjorie Law¬ rence, SIU Opera Workshop director and former Metro¬ politan Opera prima donna. She arranged an audition for him with the Met in Wew York City.
As a result of that audi¬ tion, Thomasobtaineda schol¬ arship' lo study In California. After t^o years on the West Coast, he obtained a grant to study in Europe.
During the past year, Thom¬ as has been studying at the Muslkakademl at Vienna, Aus¬ tria, where he makes his home. He also has been sing¬ ing in Austria and Germany in concerts and over radio as well as having guest ap¬ pearances in opera pro¬ ductions.
His goal is operatic sing¬ ing. Thus he is enthusiastic about his role as Mephisto¬ phies, which, he says, "gives me the opportunity toaddano- ther opera to my repetoire."
"I'm an opera singer and am glad to work at home once
Thomas points out there Is bur one major opera com¬ pany, with only a aix-week season, in this country. On the other hand, in Germany and Austria, for example, there are more than 150 com¬ panies with seasons of 9 to IU months.
Because he wants to sing opera, Thomas says he ox- pecls to remain in Europe most of his adutt life.
Does he have any sugges¬ tions for budding opera singers?
"Be firmly convinced of your talent and expect noth¬ ing to come easily. Be pre¬ pared to struggle, work and fight to attain your goal."
But in connection with his role in Faust. Thomas denies his experience as a emoke- eating firefighter did anytbing to help him prepare for the part of Ihe devil.
"It only helped me attend the University."
There Are Man^ John Owens
Just Helping Out, Reward Enough
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By Louis Sandbote
The name John Owen prob- ably won't ring a bell in many minds around campus, but ne^rt Saturday if John Owen and about 150 others like him aren't around there won't be a production of "Faust/*
Owen is one of two trump¬ et players among about 30 members of the sympbonyor- chestra who will play for the SIU Opera Workshop produc¬ tion of the Gounod opera.
He Is among those whose names sometimes appear in the fine print in SIU's theater and productions—but are most conspicuous when they fail to carry out their duties.
Until this term, Owen played in the Little Symphony, per¬ haps thinking about his future plans to teach a high school band when he graduates from Southern neKt year. He went to class, studied his music courses and was no more in¬ terested in "Faust" than "Faust" might have been m- terested in Owen,
And then he got his music for the Charles Gounod opera and things changed.
Hia music meant playing pieces written more than 100 years ago—and playing it well.- That means practice.
If means practicing about three days a week for an hour, night rehearsals, and about four hours a week working on his own.
Multiply Owen by about 150 persons, some spending more time, some a little less, and an idea of the work that goes mto an opera begins to take shape.
Robert Kingsbury, assist¬ ant professor of music who Is directing the chorus- for the opera, when asked how many man-hours he felt might be spent just by the six faculty directors during the course of producing the opera, re- plied, "Good gosh!"
He said each spends about X'f/ft hours a dav. That would
be 60 hours a week tor the six—A total of about 360hours for rehearsals during week days.
This does not Include the regularly scheduled rehear¬ sals on week ends. Nor does It include the final rehearsal week or the months of meet¬ ings which precede-actual re¬ hearsals.
Kingsbury said that mem¬ bers of his singing chorus average an hour a day In re¬ hearsals over the six-week period prior to production.
There are seven principle leads in the opera which are double cast. Those 14 per¬ sons probably average afioui the same rehearsal time as the Instructors who, Kings¬ bury estimated, spend a total rehearsal time of more than 600 hours.
The students working on "Faust" do not necessarily come from the ranks of theater or music majors. The bulk of the workers have come to see what it is all about.
Alotig with John Owen, they apparently decided that the personal satisfaction is worth the effort.
Opera Tickets SHII on Sale
Tickets for the SIU Opera Workshop production next week end of Gounod's "Faust" are being sold at the Uni¬ versity Center.
They also may be pur¬ chased by mail if requests are accompanied by check and a self-addressed, starapeden- velope. Mall orders should be addressed to Student Ac^ tivitiesT University Center. Checks should be made pay- able to the SIU Opera Work¬ shop,
The opera will be staged In Shryock Auditorium at B p.m, Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets also may be purchased at the door.
All seats are reserved. prices, are. SSj SI.50 ind 75
By Floyd H. SteJn
The SIU Opera Workshop will present Gounod's opera "Faust" next weekend, iust a month before the lOMh an¬ niversary of Its first produc¬ tion in Paris, France.
Based on the tragic drama by the German poet Goethe, the libretto Gounod set lo music corresponds to the Faust- Marguerita 1nc^dent in the original work.
The story tells of the old philosopher who gives up in despair thehopeof everlearn- ing the answer to the meaning of life. He realizes he has alienated himself from life hy livingj on a purely Infel- fectual level.
Persuaded by Mephistoph¬ ies, the old man sells his soul to the devil to recapture his youth, to relive and learn about life.
Critics have found the in¬ cident Gounod uses provides an "intensely interesting" subject for his music. How¬ ever, when the opera first was introduced in Paris on March 1'^, 1859, it was only moderately successful.
But it quickly established itself in public favor and in a very short time spread all over Europe and then the world.
The SIU production will be staged at Shryock Auditorium at & p, m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
The staging will bethemost professional and most lavish of any previous operatic pro¬ ductions at SIU,
For a more meaningful presentation, the opera will be in English^ and staged in modern design and dress. Workshop director Marjorie research pro-
translation from the original French by Peter Paul Fuchs of Louisiana State University,
The time element of the Goethe drama is brought for¬ ward from the 15th Century to a period during World War II in Germany.
In keeping with this change in time and scene, it was necessary to provide modern dance and costuming for the production to supplement the more meaningful presenta¬ tion,
Katherine Dunham, inter¬ nationally - known choreo¬ grapher and dancer, was brought to SIU as artist-in- residence, to design and direct the choreography for a 50- member ballet. Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes, noted pro¬ fessional theatrical costume designer, was brought to the University to costume the cast of more than a hundred.
Also taking part in the pro¬ duction are Music Department faculty members: Robert Kingsbury, production coordi¬ nator and director of the 64- member chorus; Warren van BronkhDrst, orchestra di¬ rector, and Darwin Payne, dramatic director, who also designed the set.
Members of the cast, with one exception, are SIU stu¬ dents. The eKceprion is Joel Thomas, a former S[U sing¬ ing star.
The six other principal roles are being sung by Doug¬ las Horner and Jack O'Niel, Faust; Sharon Huehner and Katherine Kimmel, Mar- guerlta; Jeffery Clllam and Vincenzo Benestanie, Wag¬ ner; Brenda Bostain and Srenda Finn, Martha: Judith Sablotney and Gloria Smith, Sleheli anfj Ludlow Hall man, Valentine.
Original dimensions (cm.)30 x 29
Digital Object TypeImage
Digital File Format.tif
Digital File PublisherSpecial Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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