Feel Good Friday: ‘Speed Dating Tonight!,’ a comic opera for all

This Friday, Jan. 27, the University of Connecticut music department will be presenting “Speed Dating Tonight!,” written by Michael Ching and directed by Spencer Reese, with music direction by Dmitriy Glivinskiy. 

If you were wondering what to do this weekend, here is your answer!  

Performances of “Speed Dating Tonight!” will take place at von der Mehden Recital Hall for three days, from Jan. 27 through Jan. 29. The story takes place in a local pub, where the bartender and the server are getting ready to hold a speed dating event.  

What is surprising is that this is an opera. However, it is nowhere near traditional opera. “Speed Dating Tonight!” breaks the limits by being very flexible, allowing every type of singer to perform every character.  

Michael Ching, the author, is an opera composer and librettist. He was presented with the project and saw potential in it. Its open structure allows the author many liberties in building the show.  

Since “Speed Dating Tonight!” was launched in 2013, over 100 productions have been performed, making it one of the most popular operas of this century.  

To create something reminiscent of reality, Ching had to research what speed dating was. He asked people around him to describe their experiences and then made a list of words. The fact that the dialogue is only a list of words allows for improvisation, in which students take part.  

According to Ching, each representation is different, and unique, because of the open structure of the show. At first, only 25 daters could be chosen for interpretation. Now, it is over 90 characters.  

One thing he likes about “Speed Dating Tonight!” is that it is very approachable and addresses issues affecting modern society. His favorite part is a duet at the end of the opera about people who are obsessed with their phone.  

The modern components of this show might surprise you and change your perspective on opera. Additionally, as an on-campus event featuring UConn students and staff, students can play an important role in supporting the work of their peers.  

Indeed, this opera has been directed by two UConn faculty members, Spencer Reese, the director of production, and Dmitriy Glivinskiy, the music director.  

As director of production, Reese took care of the visual aspects of the show and the lighting. He also deals with the artists during the rehearsal and looks at the overall progression of the show.  

As the music director, Glivinskiy helps students develop their own interpretation, and takes students’ abilities to shape them into something of their own.  

Both agree on the fact that this opera as nothing to do with traditional opera.  

In traditional opera, even amateurs sometimes have a hard time immersing themselves into the character they are seeing. But in “Speed Dating Tonight!,” characters are easy to understand, as they transfer all their emotions to the public.  

According to Reese, what makes this opera interesting is that the emotional landscape shifts throughout the show, so the spectators don’t have time to get bored.  

“Speed Dating Tonight!” is also an opera at the service of art. Reese’s favorite part is that “art feeds the soul,” a response to those who think art is not important, though it is vital to our lives.  

Overall, the three creatives agree that coming to see the show will help many of the students that contributed to the project. These students come from various departments within the School of Fine Arts, so spectators can witness a wide range of skills at work.  

The opera is also appealing to people because it is short, involves entertaining live music, and employs a unique concept.  

The show will be performed on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Nafe Katter Theatre. The cost for general admission is $20. Students, music faculty and military can choose the amount they want to give.

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