The University Record, February 11, 1997

Stage-struck staff appear in Comic Opera Guild's
The Merry Widow Feb. 22

Although he probably won't quit his day job in the Dental School (determining the appropriate tools for dental students to use), Brad Rondeau is hooked on singing and operatic theater. Here he assembles a mannequin head to be used in training dental students.


Photo by Bob Kalmbach

It's a bus and truck operation and Michigan's only touring opera company that travels with a fully-staged show and full orchestra. Michigan's Comic Opera Guild, based in Ann Arbor, attracts U-M staff with a penchant for the stage.

Two of the tenors currently appearing in the Guild's production of The Merry Widow are Brad Rondeau and Mitchell Gillett. Rondeau, a graduate of the Dental School waiting for his dental license, is a temporary employee of the School, working in the instrument shop where he determines the appropriate tools for work being done by current students.

Rondeau's first singing experience was at a wedding on Mackinac Island. Before that he was an actor making his stage debut in the first grade. "I was a top, a toy," he says. "I had to spin around all the time and had a couple of lines." But while a student at U-M, Rondeau joined the Comic Opera Guild and was hooked on singing

He probably won't give up his day job for life on the operatic stage, but Rondeau would one day like to work as an instructor the Dental School. "I can't believe I am considering more advanced education, master's degree in higher education or a Ph.D. in public health, but this seems to be the right direction for me."

Mitchell Gillett, on the other hand, has been singing since high school and still takes voice lessons, currently studying with a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Music. This tenor, who appeared in the Guild's production of Die Fledermaus has traveled and performed with small opera companies in Ohio, Colorado and the District of Columbia and has commuted to Jackson to work in My Fair Lady.

Gillett's work in the ophthalmology department of the Medical School as an electron microscopist has the trained bacteriologist working with everything from bacteria to the eye's retina and computers is a far cry from the stage. But it was a drama scholarship that helped pay the way through his studies in applied biology at Ferris State. It was during graduate studies at Central Michigan that Gillett started voice training and sang his first opera role.

Proud of his work with the Guild and the local Gilbert and Sullivan Company, Gillett is equally proud that the Comic Opera Guild does all of its own translations, often renting those to other opera companies.

Gillett and Rondeau will be appearing with the Guild in The Merry Widow in South Lyon Feb. 14, at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor Feb. 22 and in Alma, Michigan, on April 5 and 6.