Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tarantara, tarantara! “Pirates of Penzance” Meet San Diego Opera In Season Opener.

San Diego Opera opened its 2017-2018 season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta “The Pirates of Penzance”. Looking around the lobby before going into the theatre it was such a welcomed sight to see throngs of a younger generation mixing in with the suits of the regular season ticket holders.

My theatre buddy knew “Pirates” from the movie version and claims to know all things ‘Penzance’. He was thrilled to be seeing it live in beautiful Technicolor, with eye -popping sets, imaginative costumes and gorgeous voices you most likely will not forget.

Cast of "Pirates of Penzance" and eyepopping opening pictures.
“Pirates of Penzance” is probably one the most produced and favorites (although I do like ‘Pinafore’ and sweet Buttercup. Maybe, next time) of the G&S cache. It opened in New York in 1879 and here it is in 2017 and audiences are still eating it up.

The excellent job of telling the story (English sub titles never distracted) of young Fredric’s plight as a pirate –in- training rather than a pilot in training due to a hard -of hearing nanny just flows without a hitch as both stage director and choreographer  Seán Curran and conductor Evan Rogister, with incredible support and elegant sounds from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra flows from beginning to end.

It’s his 21st birthday and celebrations ring out for his apprenticeship to be over. But Alas! He was a Labor Day Birthday Boy and, regrettably would not be ready to claim his independence until again…alas, 1940. Will his love agree to wait? “My Eyes Are Fully Open”

SPOILER, SPOILER! Not to worry.
Greer Grimsley, Mackenzie Whitney and Luretta Bybee
Once Frederic (American tenor Mackenzie Whitney could have used a little more oomph in his voice) and his Nanny Ruth (Mezzo-Soprano Luretta Bybee) make it to shore over the objections of the Pirate King (superb Bass-Baritone Greer Grimsley) and Frederic notices the bevvy of beautiful young women, (“Oh, False One You Have Deceived Me”) all daughters belonging to Major General Stanley (bass-Baritone Patrick Carfizzi), his quest to abandon Ruth and make sure lovely Mabel (soprano Maureen McKay “Poor Wandering One”) notices him, begins in earnest.

 Make no mistake the effort goes both ways over the objections of The Major General.  

Michael Sokol as Sergeant of Police
And what would a good G&S show look like without blundering policeman, (Tarantara, tarantara!) an eccentric Major General (“I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General”) a motley group of pirates (“A Rollicking Band of Pirates Be”), and a Nanny (“A Paradox, A Paradox”) in love with her charge? It doesn’t get much better than this.

Patrick Carfizzias Major General Stanley
Taking into consideration that this piece has a well -rounded ensemble but exceptional voices in the lead roles do stand out. Grimsley, Carfizzi, Ms. Bybee, Ms. McKay, local talent Soprano Patricia McAfee( “Sound of Music" moons ago)  as Isabel and Mezzo- Soprano Sarah Nicole Carter Kate, another sister, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention Baritone Michael Sokol as Sergeant of Police (what a hoot). O, and one more add on, a character from Treasure Island could be seen ambling among the pirates. Why not?

Stephen W. Bryant designed the wigs. James Schuette designed the confetti colored costumes and the playful looking cutout ship set the stage. Chorus Master Bruce Stasyna leads the company in one wonderful sound.

SDO’s foray G&S is a brilliant move by General Director David Bennett and his farsighted board willing to explore avenues not ventured to in the past. The audience reaction spoke for itself on opening night. Next up on the program: Puccini’s “Turandot” followed by Verdi’s “La Traviata” in April.    

Do yourself a favor and bring the youngsters, they (you) won’t be disappointed.

Swooning over Frederic (Mackenzie Whitney)
See you at the theatre.

Dates: Fri. Oct. 20th 7:pm, Sunday Oct. 22nd 2:pm.
Organization: San Diego Opera
Phone: 619.533.7000
Production Type: Opera
Where: 1100 Third Ave. San Diego, CA 92101
Ticket Prices: Start at $53.00
Venue: San Diego Civic Theatre

Photo: J. Katarzyna Woronowicz Johnson

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