URBANA — Conductor Eduardo Diazmunoz will take his last bow as director of the University of Illinois School of Music Opera Program on Sunday with the final presentation of Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Falstaff."
"'Falstaff,' Verdi's classic commedia lirica, is a fantastic opener to our 2013-14 season in more than one special way," Diazmunoz wrote for the program. "It is our humble homage to the grand master's bicentennial. It is also a personal milestone, my last opera as artistic director and principal conductor of the Opera Program."
Diazmunoz said the program, which is now being called Lyric Theatre @ Illinois and is under the general direction of opera star Nathan Gunn, has been the center of his life for a decade.
The maestro from Mexico and his family will leave Champaign for Sydney, Australia, where he will be professor of conducting at the University of Sydney/Sydney Conservatorium of Music, headed by Karl Kramer, the former head of the UI School of Music who brought Diazmunoz here.
In the program notes for "Falstaff," the conductor thanks myriad staff members, students, opera enthusiasts and others, among them Kathleen Conlin, who is in charge of the stage direction of "Falstaff," which opens Thursday evening at the Tryon Festival Theatre at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
"As you may already know, she is an admired and consummate Shakespearean; I treasure all that I have learned from her," he wrote of Conlin.
He also paid tribute to his late assistant, Thomas H. Schleis, by announcing a memorial fund established in Mr. Schleis' memory to support UI voice students and coaches, of which Mr. Schleis was one, for 30 years.
As for "Falstaff," the UI Opera Program set it near the ending of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance.
Verdi's last opera explores serious issues ingeniously dealt with in the context of a comedy, as seen through the "delicious wit, keen minds and lively spirits of the female characters," Diazmunoz wrote.
"Falstaff" was last performed at Krannert in 1986.
Verdi adapted it from William Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and bits of "Henry IV."
If you go
What: University of Illinois School of Music Opera Program presents "Falstaff," with music by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Arrigo Boito; artistic direction and conducting by Eduardo Diazmunoz; stage direction by Kathleen F. Conlin.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U.
Tickets: $27 for adults; $23 for senior citizens; $18 for non-UI students; $10 for UI students and youths high school age and younger.
Note: The opera is sung in Italian with English supertitles.