New opera offers a slice of RI history


The personalities and scandals of a juicy slice of Rhode Island history are the subject of a new opera being performed in July and September. “William Sprague and His Women,” written by local historian Richard Vangermeersch, has been set to music by composer Geoffrey Gibbs, using a mix of original pieces and authentic period songs related to the covered events. Both men are Kingston residents and retired URI professors.

A performance reading of selections, with discussion by the composer, will be presented on Sunday, July 15 at 8 p.m. in the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Rene de la Garza, Kate Norigian, Deirdre Donovan, Mark Conley and Billy Ray Poli will perform with MIDI accompaniment. Civil War re-enacters Co. B 2nd R.I. Regiment will participate in several selections. The work covers roughly 100 years, from mid-19th to the mid-20th century, focusing on Civil War hero Sprague, the second by that name to serve as governor of Rhode Island, and his wives, daughters and later generations, telling their stories in a non-linear fashion. Residents of Cranston and Providence, Sprague and his celebrity wife Kate Chase built the famous mansion Canonchet in Narragansett. His second wife Inez and their descendants were responsible for much of the development in that town.

Admission is $10 general public, $5 students. Admission proceeds go to support the University of Rhode Island Music Scholarship Fund. Donations toward the restoration of the Governor William Sprague portrait that hangs in the State House will also be accepted by check to: the RI State House Preservation—The Sprague Fund.

The debut performance of the entire opera is slated for Sunday, Sept. 30 at 4 p.m., also in the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, with full cast, Chamber Music Ensemble directed by Brian Cardany and Chorus directed by Mark Conley.

The URI Concert Hall is handicap-accessible. Parking is available in the lot behind the Fine Arts Center, off Bills Road.

For more information, contact Geoffrey Gibbs at 783-1682.


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