Orpheus in the Underworld – Fall 2017
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is pleased to announce that it will present Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, from October 27th through November 19th of 2017.
This production of Orpheus in the Underworld will be directed by Lesley Hendrickson.
Gilbert knew and liked the Offenbach operettas and stated that he hoped to emulate his work, but in a more distinctly British style. Gilbert was particularly adamant that his plots and staging would allow any Englishman to feel comfortable bringing his wife and daughters to see the shows. Offenbach’s libretti, after all, were the very definition of “too French!” Offenbach and his various librettists share Gilbert’s interest in topical satire and character-based humor. And both liked to see pretty girls on stage — though Gilbert’s chorus ladies were costumed rather more discreetly.
This satiric retelling of the Orpheus legend is set in Ancient Greece (or at least an Ancient Greece that seems a lot like France of the second empire). Comparison of the households of the Emperor Napoleon III and the god Jupiter, so unlike the home life of our own dear queen, suggests serious family dysfunction on both parts. In Act I, down on earth, Orpheus is annoyed at his bored wife Eurydice for cheating on him. When she is abducted by Pluto and swept away to the underworld, Orpheus is forced to visit Mount Olympus (Act II) to ask for the gods’ help in getting her back – if only to appease Public Opinion, here a character in her own right. In Act III, everyone ends up in the underworld. Pluto, Jupiter and Orpheus are all competing for Eurydice, but the rest of gods are there for the party!
Orpheus in the Underworld was first performed in 1858, and reached London in 1865. Its success was one of the inspirations for the creation of a home-grown English operetta, and for Richard D’Oyly Carte’s pairing of Gilbert and Sullivan to accomplish it. Orpheus in the Underworld was revised in 1874 to the full four-act version with chorus, and achieved even greater popularity. The English adaptation we are using was created for the 1985 English National Opera production.
An excellent internet resource for information about Orpheus in the Underworld
Princess Ida – Spring 2018
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is pleased to announce that it will present Princess Ida, from March 2nd through March 25th of 2018.
Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant tells the story of Princess Ida and Prince Hilarion, who were married in infancy by their fathers, King Gama and King Hildebrand. Ida, however, refuses to be bound by the decisions that others have made for her and has left her father’s court to establish a college for women from which all men are barred. Hilarion and his friends infiltrate the castle, disguised as women, in Hilarion’s attempt to win Princess Ida’s love. King Hildebrand, however, grows impatient and storms the castle. Ida is abandoned by her women, who fear a military conflict, and is failed by her brothers who offer to fight for her, but lose. Ultimately, as she has come to know Hilarion, realizes that she loves him and decides for herself that she will consent to their marriage.
In Princess Ida, Gilbert satirizes feminism, women’s education and Darwinian evolution, which were controversial topics in conservative Victorian England. The operetta is based on a narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, called The Princess, written in 1847. Gilbert had written a farcical musical play, based on the poem, in 1870, and lifted much of the dialogue of Princess Ida directly from his 1870 farce. Princess Ida is the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera in three acts and the only one with dialogue in blank verse.
Princess Ida was produced between Iolanthe and The Mikado, when Gilbert and Sullivan were at the height of their creative powers. The score is Sullivan at his best, and some people consider that Gilbert’s libretto contains some of his funniest lines.
Two excellent internet resources for information about Princess Ida
The Mikado – Spring 2019
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is pleased to announce that it will present The New Mikado, in March of 2019.
This production is based upon the adaptation by R. A. Shiomi of the original version of The Mikado, and will be directed by Rick Shiomi.
In Shiomi’s re-imagined version of The Mikado, flirting is still declared a crime and punishable by death. Yet there is a lot of flirting going on in the town of Ti-Tea-Pu, in the land of England. In anticipation of the arrival of the monarch, The Mikado, a tailor has been appointed Lord High Executioner and must behead someone before his majesty arrives. The tailor himself is involved in a love triangle and attempts to set up his rival, Franky-Poo, before he loses his own head. It’s all the fun and games of Gilbert and Sullivan, with a modern twist.
Shiomi describes his vision for this retelling of the classic operetta, “Our re-imagined production of The Mikado will deconstruct the unfortunate stereotypes while still retaining the humor and classic music; getting at the heart of the universal human experience through the lens of our diverse contemporary American culture.”
Rick Shiomi’s editorial in which he discusses his previous mounting of this production can be found here.
All performances will be at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, at Plymouth Congregational Church, located at 1900 Nicollet Avenue South, in Minneapolis.
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“The Present as we speak becomes the Past,
The Past repeats itself, and so is Future!
This sounds involved. It’s not. It’s right enough.”