Breaking Theater News:
‘Cyrano’ by David DiChiera to premiere Oct. 13 at Detroit Opera House
DETROIT — Michigan Opera Theatre will present “Cyrano,” a world premiere opera by Company Founder and General Director David DiChiera, and director/librettist Bernard Uzan, Oct. 13 – 28, 2007 at the Detroit Opera House. This three-act opera, DiChiera’s first-ever major opera, is based on Edmond Rostand’s celebrated stage drama of 1897, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a romantic tragedy. “Cyrano” is a co-production with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Florida Grand Opera.
Over eight years in the making, “Cyrano” represents DiChiera in his debut as an opera composer, reuniting him with long-time colleague Uzan and a host of creative team members. For more than 36 years, DiChiera has produced opera and musical theater productions, in addition to salvaging the Detroit Music Hall in 1971, founding Michigan Opera Theatre and establishing the Detroit Opera House in 1996. His enormous and well-documented contributions to the cultural life of Detroit, in addition to founding Opera Pacific in Orange County and providing artistic vision for Dayton Opera, have earned him a special place within the rarified world of the performing arts.
“I had always been interested in composing an opera, but never found the right subject or had the time,” said DiChiera. “Bernard approached me with the idea of setting ‘Cyrano,’ and I was immediately struck by the dual aspects of Cyrano’s personality, a powerful struggle between his overwhelming external bravado and the inner sadness and anguish of his internal persona. When you add Roxane to the mix, you have a tale similar to Romeo and Juliet — a great love story.”
“I have loved Rostand’s ‘Cyrano’ since my youth,” commented director and librettist Uzan. “This wonderful story, full of humanity coupled with Rostand’s beautiful use of the French language has always captivated me. The themes of Cyrano are so universal that I think they welcome many different interpretations.”
“Cyrano de Bergerac,” Rostand’s most popular play, blends nostalgia for 17th century French life with swashbuckling heroism, romance and lyrical verse. Cyrano, a nobleman with a larger than life personality, skilled in both the sword and the pen, is physically plain with a rather large nose. Despite his overwhelming love for the beautiful Roxane, Cyrano agrees to help his younger rival, the handsome Christian, to win her heart. From the renowned balcony scene to the moving climax, the triumph of the spiritual over the corporal is ultimately achieved. Cyrano, similar to Don Quixote and Don Juan, has become one of the world’s most enduring and popular literary figures.
DiChiera began work on Cyrano in 1999, and through the years composed the opera in a variety of locales: Detroit, California, New York, the Caribbean and Scotland. “The more I read Rostand’s play, it became clear to me that I wanted to further explore the beauty of the French language. His words lent themselves to music, and for me, simply needed to be sung,” said DiChiera. The opera will be sung in French with English Surtitles.
Widely known for his work as an opera impresario, DiChiera earned his masters in composition at UCLA under the direction of Lukas Foss and Boris Kremenilev. “I’m very much a romantic, a melodist and really had nothing to say musically with the atonal compositional style so prevalent in the 1950s and early ’60s. I’ve composed a romantic opera that is very faithful to what Rostand penned, as set to a libretto by Bernard. The score is lush and at times big and sweeping. In other sections, especially the final letter scene, it is tender and nostalgic.” DiChiera’s previous musical compositions include a “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” two song cycles for singer and piano, a children’s opera and various chamber and choral works.
Mark D. Flint, who has created the 70-piece Cyrano orchestration, will also conduct all five performances in Detroit featuring an international cast led by highly acclaimed Romanian baritone Marian Pop in the title role and American soprano Leah Partridge as Roxane. Casting for the role of Christian will be announced in late January.
Celebrated English artist John Pascoe will design the lavish 17th century period scenery and costumes, and Donald Thomas will serve as lighting designer. Suzanne Mallare Acton will prepare the 48-member Michigan Opera Theatre Chorus.
Casting for Michigan Opera Theatre’s presentation of “Cyrano” features a roster of talented artists, including: Peter Volpe as DeGuiche, Mark Panuccio as Ragueneau, Gloria Parker as the Duenna, and Gaetan Lapperiere as Lebret. Daniel Okulitch will essay the dual roles of Carbon and Inconnu, and Torrance Blaisdell will sing the roles of the Capucin and the Marquis de Cuigy.
Following the Detroit engagement, “Cyrano” will be presented by the Opera Company of Philadelphia Feb. 8 – 17, 2008 at the Academy of Music, and Florida Grand Opera April 26 – May 7, 2008 at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, and May 15 and 17, 2008 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Casting and conducting for both Philadelphia and Florida performances will be slightly different than the Detroit premiere. In all, “Cyrano” will be given 18 performances nationwide during the 2007/08 season.
“The Opera Company of Philadelphia is pleased to continue its commitment to producing American repertory through this new collaboration with our colleagues in Detroit and Miami,” shared General and Artistic Director Robert B. Driver. “We’re bringing ‘Cyrano’ to Philadelphia because it has all the makings of a great operatic experience — a story based in classic literature; a libretto written and directed by someone with a solid background in opera and theater; a lush and grand scale production; and music from David DiChiera, who has used his great melodic gift to create a work that will surely gain a lasting place in operatic literature.”
Florida Grand Opera General Director Robert M. Heuer stated, “We are very excited to present this new opera by David DiChiera in South Florida. The music in ‘Cyrano’ is luxuriant and romantic, and the story is known to all, not only from the famous novel, but also from the films starring Jose Ferrer, Gerard Depardieu, and most recently, Steve Martin. This new work provides an extraordinary opportunity to engage the whole community in the art of opera.”
“Cyrano” will launch Michigan Opera Theatre’s 37th anniversary season. The performance schedule is: Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m. Pre-performance talks about ‘Cyrano’ will be offered at each performance beginning one hour prior to curtain.
The Detroit Opera House is located at 1526 Broadway at Grand Circus Park.
For ticket information, telephone the Michigan Opera Theatre Box Office at 313-237-SING or visit HYPERLINK “http://www.motopera.com”
Professional Theater News from Around Town:
U-M, UMS collaborate on special staging of ‘The Silver River’
ANN ARBOR – U-M composer and 2001 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award-winner Bright Sheng conducts his opera-theater work “The Silver River” on Friday-Saturday Jan. 12-13 at 8 p.m. at the Power Center (121 Fletcher Street, Ann Arbor). The production, presented by the University Musical Society in partnership with the U-M Office of the Provost, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Columbia Artists Management Inc., is directed by Ong Keng Sen and features a libretto by David Henry Hwang (Disney’s “Aida,” “M. Butterfly”).
“The Silver River” was written in 1997 and mounted for the 2000 Spoleto Festival, the 2002 Lincoln Center Festival and TheatreWorks Singapore in 2001. Performed in English, the 75-minute work is a magical retelling of a 4,000-year-old Chinese creation myth about perfect love struggling to survive in an imperfect world. “The Silver River” masterfully integrates Western opera, drama and contemporary dance with Chinese opera (the role of the Jade Emperor is the only role sung in Chinese, in a Peking Opera style) and a virtuosic solo performance of the pipa, a Chinese lute, into a beautiful, contemporary stage aesthetic. This exclusive new production is inspired by the original productions, which were done by the same creative team, and will be performed only in Ann Arbor.
Karen Kandel stars as the Golden Buffalo (narrator), and the production features Chinese opera singer Yu-Cheng Ren as the Jade Emperor; baritone Lucas Richter as the mortal Cowherd, shadowed by flutist David Fedele; and dancer Hsin-Ping Chang as the immortal Goddess Weaver, shadowed by pipa player Yihan Chen. The professional musicians playing this virtuosic score include Aaron Berofsky, violin, and Michael Udow, percussion, both faculty members of the U-M School of Music, Theatre, & Dance.
Tickets are $18-$40.
For tickets or additional information, contact the University Musical Society at 734-764-2538 or online at HYPERLINK “http://www.ums.org”.
Second City’s 29th revue now in previews
NOVI – The Second City is pleased to announce the rehearsal process and preview performances for its 29th Original Revue that began Jan. 3 leading up to the Opening Night Celebration Feb. 28.
Under the direction of Shari Hollett, the cast for the next revue includes Brett Guennel, Quintin Hicks, Tara Nida, Tim Robinson and Megan Wilkins. Mark Levenson is musical director and Amy Duffy is stage manager. The producing artistic director is Nate DuFort.
The Second City’s famous sketch comedy revues are first created through a preview process. Through improvisation from audience suggestions, the cast assembles these scenes and previews them on stage before a live audience to gauge feedback. Throughout the preview process – Jan. 3 through Feb. 25 – the show can virtually change from night to night. When previews are complete, the revue is titled and the newly mastered revue is debuted by the cast with an opening night performance.
The Second City is located at 42705 Grand River Ave. in Novi. Performances are Wednesday through Sunday nights.
Tickets to the preview performances are $15-$20.
For tickets and information, call the box office at 248-348-4448 or log on to HYPERLINK “http://www.secondcity.com”.
Mosaic’s annual ‘Magnificat Gala’ set for Feb. 8
DETROIT – Enjoy an evening of fine dining, fine music and the finest company in the city. Mosaic Youth Theatre and DTE Energy Foundation will present Mosaic’s third Annual Magnificat Gala, Thursday, February 8, at 6 p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The Magnificat Gala is a culinary and concert event fundraiser to benefit the young artists of Mosaic Youth Theatre. The evening will begin with a strolling dinner featuring Chef Matt Young’s showcase creations of South American, Middle Eastern, Asian and Central European culinary delights, and for the first time include a 15 minute live auction of one-of-a-kind Detroit treasures conducted by auctioneer Charlie Wickins!
Honorary Chairs and Hosts Matthew Cullen, general manager of General Motors, and Karen Cullen, VP of corporate communication at Illitch Holdings along with Kevin Smith, attorney at Miller Canfield, and Reva Smith, business manager for Tech One, will host this very special annual event.
The Mosaic Singers are celebrating their tenth year of joyous music making. Under the direction of Kenneth Anderson, young people from all over Metropolitan Detroit come together in a nurturing environment that fosters discipline, leadership and academic achievement while studying the choral performing arts. Their musical excellence has led to performances on stages throughout the state, the country and the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. At the Magnificat Gala, following a strolling dinner and -minute live auction, The Mosaic Singers will bring the power of a 60 voice choir and their unique brand of energy to a glorious evening of a cappella, classical, gospel and popular music in this special preview concert.
Complimentary valet parking is available for all guests. Business attire is recommended. Tickets are $125 per guest.
For further information regarding Mosaic’s third Annual Magnificat Gala, or to purchase tickets, please call Jennifer Hillebrand at 313-872-6910, ext. 4012.
Then, on Friday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., the Magnificat 10th Anniversary Concert will be held at The Music Box at The Max M. Fisher Music Center. General admission is $18 per person, senior and student tickets are $12 per person.
Due to sold-out houses last year during Mosaic’s limited one-weekend run, we recommend reserving your tickets in advance by calling 313-576-5111.
Community Theater Corner:
Riverwalk Theatre to present special two-day event: ‘Singers on the Grand’
LANSING – “All-Star Broadway & Pops” comes to Riverwalk Sat, Jan, 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 7 at 2p.m. It’s the ninth season of shows with founder/director Libby Brandon. Noted for their choral expertise and solo renditions of America’s favorite songs, the singers are backed up by accomplished musicians, fondly known as “The Grand Band.” Professional ballroom dancers and teachers, Louis and Tracy Soma, owners of “our Dance Studio” in Grand Ledge, add elegance and grace, along with their talented colleagues.
You’ll love this mix of Broadway, pop and jazz classics, from “Anything Goes,” “Honey Bun” and “Tuxedo Junction,” to “Brazil,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and “Let’s Do It.” Besides these favorites, they have prepared a few lesser known but delightful songs from “Rent” and “Spamalot.”
Tickets are $10 presale and $12 at the door.
For tickets and information, call Mike at Riverwalk Theatre at 517-482-5700.
A2CT presents ‘Sweet Charity’
ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents the classic musical comedy “Sweet Charity,” January 11-14 at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
Directed by Edmond Reynolds, “Sweet Charity” tells the tale of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess who dreams of true love but can’t find the right guy. With a snappy script by Neil Simon, lively Bob Fosse-inspired choreography by Jeff DiFranco and catchy tunes including “Big Spender,” “Sweet Charity” is a sweet confection sure to entertain.
The production features A2CT veteran Kathy Waugh as Charity, Erik Wright-Olsen as Oscar, Kathleen Beardmore as Ursula, Katie Hoag as Helene, January Provenzola as Nickie, David Velez Felix as Big Daddy, Henry Naasko as Herman and Peter Kentes (reprising the role from Civic’s 1991 production) as Vittorio Vidal.
The cast also includes Jeff Steinhauer, Brian Buckner, Brandon Cave, Jenna Crawford, Rachel Francisco, Emily Rogers, Lexi Harris, Jon Elliott, Brenda Kensler, Craig Nichols, Amy Nixon, Michelle Nixon, Sam Pazicni, Becky Roberts, Lisa Trotzke-Laws, Doug Patton, Gene Kim, Doug Harris and Caitlin Frankel.
Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets are $24 for general admission and $21 for students and seniors. All tickets are $15 on Thursday. Student tickets on Friday are $12.
Tickets and information are available through the A2CT office at 734-971-2228, at the door of the theater before each performance and online at HYPERLINK “http://www.a2ct.org”.
Kalamazoo Civic to present ‘The Nerd’
KALAMAZOO – The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre will present Larry Shue’s comedy, “The Nerd,” Jan. 12 through 27 in the Civic Auditorium.
Non-stop laughter takes center stage as we’re introduced to Willum Cubbert, an aspiring young architect in Terre Haute, Indiana. Willum has it all: a promising career, devoted friends, even, maybe, a serious girlfriend. He is delighted when Rick Steadman, an anonymous ex-GI who saved his life shows up at his birthday party. However, Willum’s delight soon fades as it becomes apparent that Rick is a hopeless, annoying “nerd” who has no intention of leaving. A bumbling oaf with no social sense, little intelligence and less tact, Rick stays on and on. His prolonged and increasingly annoying presence leads to one uproarious incident after another, until Willum is forced to out-nerd the champ.
“The Nerd” is directed by Art Nemitz, and features a supremely talented cast and crew. The cast includes Terese Banner as Clelia Waldgrave, Kevin Drzakowski as Willum Cubbert, Ken Holda as Rick Steadman and Craig W. Sloan as Warnock Waldgrave. Appearing for the first time on a Civic stage are Bill Hohnke as Axel Hammond, Evan Shoemaker as Thor Waldgrave and Kelly White as Tansy McGinnis.
“The Nerd” plays in the Civic Auditorium, 329 South Park, Kalamazoo.
For ticket information, call the box office at 269-343-1313 or visit us on line at HYPERLINK “http://www.kazoocivic.com”.
Avon Players presents ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’
ROCHESTER HILLS – Avon Players continues its 2006-2007 season with Joe DiPietro’s hilarious family comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Nick Cristano spends every Sunday dinner with his grandparents in Hoboken, New Jersey. When a new job as marketing director threatens to carry him off to Seattle, the grandparents use every trick at their disposal to keep him around, including inviting the young, single and attractive Catilin O’Hare to dinner.
The show features Toby Booker as Nick, Mike Olsem as Nunzio, Debi Schlutow as Emma, Mark Palmer as Frank, Marilyn Smale as Aida and Caitlin Czarnecki as Caitlin. The director is Lesa Bydalek and the producer is Debi Schlutow.
Show dates are January 12-14, 19-21, and 26-27. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.
Avon Players is located at 1185 Washington Road, one mile east of the intersection of Tienken and Rochester Roads in Rochester Hills.
Tickets for the show are $14 and can be reserved by calling 248-608-9077. The theater offers a $12 student/senior discount rate for Sunday matinees.
Stagecrafters presents ‘Once on This Island’
ROYAL OAK – Stagecrafters presents the beautiful folktale musical “Once on This Island” that is based on a book by Rosa Guy that adapts Hans Christian Andersen’s classic “Little Mermaid” story and transplants it to a Caribbean island setting. The show runs Jan. 12 through Feb. 4 at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak.
Set on an island in the French Antilles, this story of a love doomed by class differences gets a rich and colorful staging inspired by Caribbean sounds, folklore, and tradition. The show features a multi-cultural cast in continuous movement and song. Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, “Once on This Island” was written by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics and book) and Stephen Flaherty (music). Ahrens and Flaherty are the same team that wrote “Ragtime,” which Stagecrafters reports sold out nearly every show last season.
As a group of peasants wait out a violent storm, they entertain a frightened little girl (Olivia Bryant) with a story told in song and dance as they transform themselves into flora, fauna, humans and the four gods who preside over their island: Erzulie, the Goddess of Love (Schianti Jaramillo); Agwe, the God of Water (Andy Kavalos); Asaka, Mother of the Earth (Tawna Dabney); and Papa Ge, Demon of Death (Albert Massey).
The gods initiate a fateful meeting when a young peasant girl, Ti Moune (Sara Rydzewski), rescues a wealthy young aristocrat, Daniel Beauxhomme (Michael Lapinsky), from an automobile accident. She pleads with Papa Ge for the gentleman’s life offering her own life instead. As she nurses him back to health, the two fall in love.
But a deep divide between the island’s peasants and the wealthy planters overpowers their love, and Ti Moune must contend with the pull of Daniel’s fiancee, Andrea Devereaux (Patricia Raney), and father, Armand (Brian Moultrup). Ultimately Daniel succumbs to his well-bred heritage, leaving a heartbroken Ti Moune. However, as the storytellers bring the story full circle, it becomes clear that Ti Moune’s sacrifice has not been in vain.
The cast also includes Caren Bayer, Lisa Caruss, Laurane Walker and Jeff Weiner as storytellers, and Lydia Williams as Mama Eurlie, an old peasant woman, and Rodel Salazar as Tonton Julian, an old peasant man.
“Once on This Island” appealed to director Jerry Haines from the first time he saw the show on Broadway. “I can’t get through a listening of this musical without dancing, singing, laughing, and crying. Most of all it is the story touches me,” says Haines, who started with the original source, the novel “My Love, My Love” to prepare for the production. “The adaptation is not quite the same but the message of love as a very powerful force carries over. Love crosses cultures, survives in the face of tragedy, and transcends death. Every human being on this planet is capable of loving and being loved and should be free to love without judgment. Knowing and experiencing love is being one with God. Or, in the vein of the show, being one with the gods.”
Haines had directed ‘book’ musicals before but this was truly challenging. “The entire piece is not only underscored, but also much of the spoken dialogue must be delivered in rhythm, and timing is essential. There really is little room for error on the part of the performer. Then, there is the challenge of the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and the dance. I wanted the piece to flow – to blur the lines between blocking, musical staging, and dancing,” he continued.
Drew Hall designed a set that manages to capture all Haines wanted to convey. “The Baldwin Main Stage has been transformed into a lush and exotic tropical island getaway, complete with palms, cliffs, majestic ocean view and even a seven-foot-tall flowing waterfall to capture the dynamic energy of the show.”
Haines also worked closely with Costume Designer Dolly Scheibelhut. “She and I discussed color schemes and characters, and she has put together beautiful fabrics and costumes that compliment the staging and the scenery,” he said. Scheibelhut has used color to accentuate this tale of class division. Bright, colorful patterns accented with beads, jewelry and headpieces identify peasants while more tasteful and conservative creams and beiges designate the upper class. Each of the four gods also has a distinctive signature color.
First produced at Playwrights Horizons, “Once on This Island” opened October 18, 199, at Broadway’s Booth Theatre and ran for 469 performances to close December 1, 1991. It garnered eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical.
Visa/MasterCard accepted. All seats reserved. Tickets for all shows are: $16 – $18.
For tickets and schedule information, call 248-541-6430.