Speed Dating Tonight!
Music and words by Michael Ching
Based on a concept by Dean Anthony
Originally produced and directed by Dean Anthony at Janiec Opera Company, 2013.
The show will run approximately 70 minutes without an intermission.
Any video and/or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited.
Dear Arts Supporters,
On behalf of everyone at Viterbo University, I would like to welcome you to the Fine Arts Center as we celebrate the return of in-person performances. The pandemic necessitated a year and a half-long pause in our live event schedule, and both our artists and audience members have been sorely missed. It is truly great to have you with us.
It’s only fitting that the Fine Arts Center should be fully used to its intended purpose during its 50th anniversary year. Opened in 1971, it remains not only the premier arts facility in the region, but also a wonderful testament to the vision and courage of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who made it possible. Their collective love and appreciation for the arts led to countless cultural opportunities in the greater La Crosse community and has enhanced all our lives.
New Fine Arts Center director Dillion McArdle and his staff have an outstanding season planned for you this year. I invite you to pick up an On Stage book or visit the Viterbo website for the complete schedule. There is a wide variety of offerings from which to choose, and tickets make wonderful gifts. Included in the schedule are the Conservatory for the Performing Arts student productions. I am continually amazed at the incredible talent of our students, and seeing them put it to use always fills me with pride, no matter their role, pursuit, or field of study.
While live performances and other events have returned, we must remain vigilant in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. I ask that you adhere to the university’s safety policies, including remaining masked while anywhere inside the building.
The arts will always be an integral part of the Viterbo University experience, which is made even more special through the support of our patrons, benefactors, sponsors, and volunteers. It would not be the same without you. Thank you.
Rick Trietley, President
To Our Audience,
Erin Jerozal and I are pleased to present Speed Dating Tonight!, our first musical collaboration as directors in the new Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Viterbo. This show in many ways represents what we strive to be as a community of artists, where students are both comfortable and capable of crossing the traditional stylistic guardrails set between opera and music theatre. There is an ever-expanding core of dramatic music that in some way blurs these lines, and this is part of what originally attracted us to Michael Ching’s Speed Dating Tonight!
Composed and premiered in 2013, Speed Dating Tonight! sought to accomplish two goals for the opera program at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina: to give meaningful roles to a larger number of singers and to explore characters relatable to today’s young artists. The show breaks from one of the drawbacks of traditional opera where a handful of primary leads is supported by a chorus of talented singers situated mainly in the background. In Speed Dating Tonight!, each singer gets a primary role, uniquely chosen for them from a list of over 100 possible scenes. Figuring out how to assemble and cast the show was a jigsaw puzzle for all involved, but the result is a tailor-made show built to highlight individual talents.
Stylistically, Speed Dating Tonight! is what its librettist and creator Dean Anthony calls, “not an opera or a musical but a sort of musical storytelling.” The composer, Ching has written several operas, but he often composes for other genres including blues and pop. The result is a show with varied scenes and musical styles where Car Man sounds like the blues, Fargo sounds like Bernstein, OSD sounds like Mozart, and Fragile Heart sounds like Sondheim. In Speed Dating Tonight!, there is literally something for everyone.
Thank you for taking the courageous step of coming to a show where you’re not entirely sure of what to expect. It’s almost as courageous as signing up for speed dating.
An Introduction and Orientation from Michael Ching:
Speed Dating Tonight! is what I call a "new numbers opera." Much of traditional opera is based on musical numbers: arias, duets, ensembles, and finales. Speed Dating Tonight! is similarly structured but with some twists. As for the songs and ensembles themselves, most of the material is not gendered and not limited to one vocal type. Even the order of the pieces is up to the producer. The cast needn't be based on a 50/50 gender balance. In the over 100 productions the smallest cast has been four and the largest around 50. The goal is to have 100 options with the idea being that you use only the material you want for your cast.
Quinn, bartender: Matthew Olson
Stephanie, waitress: Rhiannon Baasch
Kaylee, dating coordinator: Anika Philips
Busboy: Zachary Anderson
Dater #1: Isabella Dippel
Dater #3: Sophia Niblock
Dater #5: Ellery Larson
Dater #9: Ellyn Werner
Dater #14: Nathan Janzen
Dater #15: Grace Peña
Dater #19: Zane Rader
Dater #20: Carson Carter
Dater #21: Katie Schafer
Dater #22: David Caliri
Dater #52: Levi Magnuson
Dater #59: Greta Schwandt
Dater #73: Kieran Sween
Clarinet: Jake Erickson
Piano: James Wilson
Bass: Troy Birdsong
Drums: Dave Kies
Director: Erin Jerozal
Music Director: James Wilson
Assistant Director: Emma Phillips
Stage Manager/Light Board: Will Handrick
Costume Coordinator: Sarah DeMinter
Props Coordinator: Grace Peña
Special Thanks: Jen Brown, Alex Bell, Jack Hamilton, Jessica Rigdon, Dillon McArdle, Martha Boehm, Gary Moss, Monika Sutherland, and Riley (for sharing her bear)
Many of these operas have free downloadable perusals scores through Ching's blog.
Ching works regularly with Amarillo Opera, is composer-in-residence at Savannah Voice Festival, and Opera consultant at EC Schirmer. He is the former artistic director of Opera Memphis. In 2019, Ching was elected to the board of directors of the National Opera Association. Ching studied composition with Robert Ward at Duke University and Carlisle Floyd at the Houston Opera Studio.
With a lifelong devotion to the craft of operatic composition learned through the success and failure of over a dozen operas, through composition study, and through years of conducting the standard operatic repertoire; and with a strong interest in folk and country music, Ching is a somewhat of an outlier in the world of new music.