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April 20 , 2000
  Vol. 29, No. 19

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By Kevin Fitzsimons

Assistant Professor of Music Noel Koran directs students for a scene in The Magic Flute. Performances are May 5-7 in Weigel Hall.


The Magic Flute will be staged in May

By Susan Wittstock

The diorama for the set of an upcoming Opera/Music Theatre production of The Magic Flute is a simple one, consisting of a 12-inch stage with a turntable positioned stage left and a balcony running above the back length. A closer examination reveals a trap door at the top of the balcony stairs and a hidden door in the bright blue wall beneath the balcony, requiring only a gentle push from a finger to create escape routes for imaginary characters.

For now, the little diorama rests on the edge of the stage in Hughes Hall Auditorium, the only visual reminder of the theatrical magic the show is planning to conjure up. Just a few giant steps away, singers in blue jeans and sweat pants are rehearsing the second act quintet, their voices rising out triumphantly from their chests, the German lyrics cleanly enunciated.

They are preparing for the performance in Weigel Hall May 5-7, when a life-size set populated by nearly 50 singers in larger-than-life costumes will be completed, an orchestra will be on hand to give breath to Mozart's melodies, and an audience will add its cacophony of laughter and applause to the scene.

Noel Koran, assistant professor of music, has chosen to give The Magic Flute a millennial flare, utilizing an eclectic mix of costumes and cultural references to evoke society's last 1,000 years. His cast will appear on stage in costumes suggesting everything from Queen Elizabeth, Eleanor Roosevelt and George Washington to a Puritan cleric, gum-chomping 1950s car hop and Peter Pan.

"We're having fun with it. With this being the end of the millennium and a very auspicious year, we've decided to take an approach that touches on many periods from the last millennium,"Koran said.

This is one of the biggest productions the department has ever staged. "The Magic Flute is a rather large opera with a good-sized chorus and lots of magic involved,"Koran said. "There are dragons and spirits and a mysterious queen that all make appearances and there are a lot of different scenes. It takes you from a magic wood to a palace to a temple of trials. It's a very, very active opera.

"We've been trying to figure out how to do all that in our humble little space. It is always a challenge to turn Weigel (Hall) into a theatrical space."

Koran's production will not be stodgy. "The Magic Flute is one of the most fun operas to do. It ranges in styles from slapstick comedy to stately pageantry."

For a recent rehearsal, cast members were being put through their vocal and comic paces. They split their time between standing near the piano, polishing the intricacies of the music, to blocking out scenes, practicing the physical comedy the show requires.

The lyrics will be in German for the performance, with projections of the supertitles in English translation. The dialogue will be presented in English.

Audiences should expect the unexpected. "This shows Mozart at his most varied. The music ranges from very simple folk-like melodies for Papageno to incredibly beautiful choral numbers to elegant arias for the Queen of the Night,"Koran said.

The opera is a morality play depicting the story of two young lovers -- Tamino, an Egyptian prince, and Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night.

The plot is not necessarily a light-hearted fairy tale. "In many ways, it's Mozart's most complicated and most problematic work,"Koran said, explaining that the opera, written in 1791, has been interpreted as having misogynistic, Masonic and racist themes. "I would call it misunderstood symbolism,"he said. "I believe it is from a time in the past with no relevance to this day and age. I've chosen to downplay a lot of the more unsavory sides of the story."

Instead, he interprets the show's main theme as one of love triumphing over adversity. "There is a beautiful duet in act one of the show that says our main duty in life is to love one another. That is the heart of the story,"he said. "In the end, it's about Tamino and Pamina facing life together as a team."

The Opera/Music Theatre program usually presents two productions a year, performed in Weigel Hall. "It is a growing program and we're gaining recognition all the time,"Koran said. The program received first-place awards from the National Opera Association for two recent productions: Cosi Fan Tutte in 1998 and Susannah in 1999.

This year, it added a chamber work performed in Hughes Auditorium in the fall. "It was an in-house experiment and a successful one,"he said. "We have so many very talented students and we're attempting as best we can to try and expand their opportunities to perform."

The cast of The Magic Flute is primarily graduate students in music, as well as a few undergraduate music students.

Wade Thomas, a master's student in voice, is playing the role of Papageno, a bird catcher. He said he is enjoying the whimsical aspects of this production.

"A lot of people don't think opera is lively,"he said. "Sometimes you need to take a different twist to it. It makes it more interesting to the actors, as well as to the audience."

Tickets for The Magic Flute are $8 to $12 and can be purchased by calling 292-3535.



Harvey Friedman


Friedman crusades for new axioms in mathematics

By Melissa Weber

Harvey Friedman -- a self-proclaimed philosophical mathematician and mathematical philosopher -- is approaching a peak moment in his 30-year career.

Friedman explores mathematical logic and the foundations of mathematics, delving into the very core of mathematical reasoning. The "foundations of mathematics"field is considered highly interdisciplinary, crossing the lines of mathematics, philosophy, and now computer science.

"It's really not properly contained in either field -- mathematics or philosophy,"Friedman said. "It's definitely unusual for the American Philosophical Association to hold a three-hour symposium based on the work of a mathematician, as they're planning to do this year."

Friedman is a popular speaker this year. Before that December symposium in New York, he will speak at the end of April in Leeds, England, on "The Mathematical Meaning of Mathematical Logic"and in June he'll join a panel discussion in Illinois on the need for new axioms and rules in mathematics.

All during his tenure as Distinguished University Professor of mathematics, philosophy, computer science and music (he toyed with the idea of becoming a concert pianist before his fascination with logic took over), he has had one long-term pet project: to demonstrate to the mathematics community that normal mathematics needs new axioms.

"This project has been a preoccupation for 30 years, and it is now ready for a crescendo,"Friedman said.

The talks he'll be giving, he said, cover "work which may be leading towards a major expansion of the accepted axioms and rules of mathematical reasoning -- the first since the full formulation of the present rules in 1925."

This banner year factors into a long list of Friedman's honors, which includes becoming the youngest professor in recorded history (age 18, Stanford University), and receiving the prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award given annually by the National Science Foundation to a single scholar in all of mathematics, science and engineering.

To understand the significance of his achievement requires a distinctly historical perspective. Mathematics operates under definite axioms and rules that provide the currently accepted standard for rigorous proof, which dates to the late 1800s.

"These are the axioms and rules that guide mathematicians with absolute confidence and certainty through a maze of complex problems that drive modern technology, such as the development of computer algorithms,"Friedman said.

The assumption has always been that rigorous mathematics is consistent (no contradictions), and mathematicians have always held this on faith.

Enter Kurt Godel. In the 1930s, Godel tackled the question: Where is the proof that exists to show consistency?

In the most famous paper ever written in mathematical logic, Godel established that there is no proof within mathematics that mathematics is consistent. Or, more accurately, he established that if there is a proof within mathematics that mathematics is consistent, then mathematics is in fact inconsistent.

Work of Godel (1940) and Paul J. Cohen (1962) showed that a famous problem in abstract set theory called the continuum hypothesis couldn't be proved or refuted within the usual axioms and rules for mathematics. This created something of a sensation -- even fear -- in the math community, because of the widely held belief that every important math statement could be proved or refuted.

This incompleteness phenomenon of Godel threatened to force a change in the cherished and venerable axioms and rules of mathematics. But because of the remoteness of abstract set theory from normal mathematical concerns, the sensation -- as well as the fear -- quickly died down.

"For 70 years, mathematicians have chosen to ignore Godel's incompleteness phenomenon,"Friedman said.

"Mathematicians continued to defend their adherence to the usual rules by declaring that these Godelian ideas were basically irrelevant philosophical conundrums. I was convinced otherwise, and for me this became a single-minded intellectual crusade."

He embarked on a program of establishing the necessary use of new axioms from abstract set theory in normal mathematical contexts -- the kind of contexts that cannot be ignored by normal mathematicians doing normal mathematics.

"I'm developing what I call Boolean relation theory, and it lives in the integers,"he said.

"Boolean relation theory is a very simple basic theory involving sets, transformations and Venn diagrams, which is readily accessible at the math undergraduate level,"he said.

"Furthermore, it is expected to have significant points of contact with virtually all areas of mathematics. Yet it is fraught with difficulties that can only be gotten around through the use of powerful new axioms for mathematics.

"Of course, it is too early to tell what the ultimate significance of this work will be. Stay tuned."

Weber is director of communications and outreach for the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.



Operation Feed serves needy central Ohioans

By Susan Wittstock

Ohio State faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to feed more than just the minds of central Ohioans during the next couple of weeks.

The annual Operation Feed campaign, which collects food and funds for 185 pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters in six central Ohio counties, began April 17 and continues through May 5. The community outreach and service project, coordinated at Ohio State by the Office of Human Resources, is sponsored by the Mid-Ohio FoodBank and United Way of Franklin County.

Last year, more than $15,000 was raised by faculty, staff and students, and 11,290 pounds of food were donated. Ned Cullom, program manager for the Office of Human Resources, said he'd like to see Ohio State do even better this year. "We're trying to exceed what the University community brought in last year,"he said.

Financial or food contributions may be made. Checks should be made payable to Operation Feed. All money raised is used by the Mid-Ohio FoodBank to purchase needed food items throughout the year. Critically needed food items include canned beef or chicken stew, canned vegetables, canned meats, peanut butter, and boxed macaroni and cheese dinners.

Cullom noted that financial contributions may be more beneficial than food donations. "Every dollar donated can provide two meals, whereas every pound of food provides only one meal,"he said.

Faculty and staff also have the option of purchasing a McDonald's coupon book for $5, offering a savings of $25. Willard Congrove, owner of the McDonald's restaurants on High Street and Neil Avenue, donated the books to the University. "Willard is donating the books so that all funds raised will go to Operation Feed to purchase food,"Cullom said.

Some units and departments may hold special fund-raising events to encourage participation. For example, the Department of Animal Sciences will sponsor a scavenger hunt contest and a Cinco de Mayo event (see Memos).

The Mid-Ohio FoodBank provides more than 500,000 meals every month. Nearly 44 percent of pantry clients are children and 10 percent are senior citizens. For more information about the drive, contact your college/office Operation Feed coordinator or call Ned Cullom at 292-4341.



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