BUENA VISTA, Virginia — Opera makes its much-anticipated debut at Southern Virginia University with the Division of the Arts’ production of The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian Carlo Menotti.

“We’re thrilled that SVU is at last able to introduce opera into its performing curriculum,” said Dr. Margaret Gingerich, Professor of Voice, and the musical director of the opera. “We’ve staged some very successful opera workshops in the past, but this is our first full-scale production. The students have risen to the challenge and are doing a wonderful job.”

Robert Stoddard, Assistant Professor of Theatre, has staged the production. “This show has been a labor of love, a true collaboration between the SVU Music and Theatre programs,” he said.  “We’re fortunate to have artist-professors like Dr. Gingerich and her colleagues, assistant musical director Dr. LaRae Carter and orchestra conductor Professor Mark Taylor. They have worked very hard to prepare the students vocally and instrumentally. My challenge is to make sure the story comes through.”

That story is not your typical operatic tragedy. The Old Maid and the Thief is about a middle-aged spinster who is persuaded by her frisky maid to allow a handsome beggar into her home. Both women fall for their guest and must resort to increasingly dishonest measures to keep him happy. Their growing jealousy is complicated when they learn that the object of their affections fits the description of a thief who has recently escaped from the county jail.

The Old Maid and the Thief was first performed during a radio broadcast in 1939. Its composer also wrote the famous television opera and perennial holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, as well as The Medium and The Counsel. All are still regularly performed in opera houses around the world.

“You won’t want to miss the chance to see The Old Maid and the Thief,” said Dr. Gingerich. “It’s not too long, it’s quite funny, and it’s also very poignant — a perfect evening’s entertainment.”

The Old Maid and the Thief will be presented at SVU’s Chandler Hall on November 9-12