Opera program honors late accompanist with ‘Die Fledermaus’

Cast member Stewart Gaitan said the news of Grubb’s passing sent a shock throughout the afternoon rehearsal for “Die Fledermaus.”

Instead of going through their daily routine, the cast sat together and spent the afternoon sharing stories, laughing and crying. They decided to dedicate the show to him.

For over 40 years, Thomas Grubb was a staple of the performing arts program as a piano accompanist, among many other duties. He passed away of natural causes at the age of 62 last week.

“I think that’s something that’s going to be on all our minds when we go on stage,” Gaitan said.

Grubb is remembered as having a wonderful sense of humor, so it’s appropriate that the performances of the Viennese opera comedy is dedicated to him. The show can be seen at 7:30 p.m. on April 10-12 and at 2 p.m. on April 13 at the Miller Concert Hall.

The plot revolves around a series of humorous practical jokes that the central characters play on each other, and because it is an operetta instead of a traditional opera, much of the story will be told through English spoken dialogue between German singing.

Soprano Lily Guerrero, who fills the lead female role said, “Die Fledermaus,” which means “The Bat,” is a good opera for beginners. She compared the plot to the old Ashton Kutcher reality show “Punk’d,” meaning that its brand of comedy should transcend the time and place in which it was written.

“I think a lot of people will like this opera even if they’ve never seen an opera before, because it’s a comedy,” Guerrero said. “It’s not one of those operas where you have to wait three hours for the soprano to die, and then she sings for 20 minutes after she gets stabbed.”

Guerrero worked with Grubb regularly before his passing, and she said that this performance would not have happened without his musical contributions.

Director of Opera & Musical Theatre Marie King is directing the show and said those with little to no knowledge of opera should come see it as a way to enrich their lives.

“I think the arts enhance everyone’s life,” King said. “I think that music and dance and visual arts are really what enrich a culture, and I think if we don’t have these things, a culture becomes a little bleak.”

King also said that opera is a shared cultural experience — something that has become increasingly valuable as time has gone on and technology has changed the ways that people experience things.

“We have YouTube, we have every cable channel, we have all these incredible Internet resources,” King said. “But there’s really nothing like being in a room with a bunch of other people and sharing that experience of seeing something that’s either fun or moving, or whatever it might be.”

King, who had known Grubb for many years, also said that dedicating this performance of “Die Fledermaus” is an excellent way to pay homage to a man who was known for sharing his deep love of music with countless people throughout his life.