Korff School to stage operatic musical ‘The Highest Yellow’

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Korff School to stage operatic musical ‘The Highest Yellow’

UNL Opera presents "The Highest Yellow: Healing Vincent Van Gogh" on Feb. 21 and 23 in Kimball Recital Hall.

The Glenn Korff School of Music’s opera program will stage the operatic musical “The Highest Yellow: Healing Vincent van Gogh,” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 23 in Kimball Recital Hall.

“The Highest Yellow” tells the story of the six months following the night that artist Vincent van Gogh severed his ear. This full production — the first since its commissioned debut at the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre — will include conventions typical of both opera and musical theatre.

Tickets, which are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, will be available at the door. For advance tickets, contact the Lied Center Box Office at 402-472-4747.

When Van Gogh moved from Paris to Provence, where the story is set, he wrote to his brother about the bright clarity of the sunlight compared to the gray of Paris.

“Van Gogh was fascinated by capturing the energy of light on his canvases painted in sun-drenched Arles, France,” said Alisa Belflower, director and coordinator of musical theatre studies. “He chose bright yellows — 'The Highest Yellow' — to illuminate the darkness in his paintings and in his life.”

Van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who created more than 2,100 artworks in a single decade. He also suffered from psychotic episodes. After he severed most of his left ear, he was brought to a local hospital, where he was treated by a young intern, Dr. Félix Rey. Rey believed he could help Van Gogh recover from the sickness that drove him to bizarre, uncontrolled behavior.

Rey and Van Gogh developed a friendship. Through a mingling of fact and fiction, “The Highest Yellow” shows what that friendship may have been.

“Van Gogh is a shining example of the power of hope,” Belflower said. “In his lifetime, he never knew the public acclaim that causes his artwork to sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet he continued to paint in the hope that someday his art would make a difference. In my opinion, the power of hope is underestimated in our culture, and I want to celebrate it in this production.”

“The Highest Yellow” features music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa and a book by John Strand.

“Michael John LaChiusa is not afraid to compose big emotion and intelligent works that do not pander to audiences looking for light entertainment,” Belflower said. “He composes art for thinking, feeling people who ask questions.”

This privately held work is not yet available to be rented and performed by any inquiring production company.

“Our production can change the future of this work and entice other production companies to see ‘The Highest Yellow’ as an appealing option,” said Belflower, who has previously produced and directed 17 new works for the musical stage at Nebraska.

LaChiusa, the composer, is scheduled to attend “The Highest Yellow” on opening night. The work will feature a chamber orchestra on stage conducted by alumnus David Galant. The cast of 12 includes students, faculty and an alumnus.