Composers Gioachino Rossini and Jacques Offenbach are mostly known for a small part of their voluminous output for the lyric stage.
Rossini achieved fame for his 39 operas before abruptly leaving the genre behind at the surprising young age of 37. He lived and composed for another 40 years, but didn’t write any other theatrical works.
Many of Offenbach’s hundred or so stage works are not heard very frequently these days, aside from Orpheus in the Underworld and The Tales of Hoffmann.
They each wrote several one-act works, and Oberlin Opera Theater will present two of them in four performances at Oberlin College’s Hall Auditorium, running Thursday, November 10 through Sunday, November 13.
Offenbach’s operetta Le mariage aux lanternes ("The Wedding by Lantern Light") and Rossini’s burletta L'occasione fa il ladro ("Opportunity Makes a Thief")—have never been presented on Oberlin stages before.
Both are double cast with Oberlin Conservatory vocal performance students. A full orchestra, led by conductor and Oberlin alumnus Joseph Mechavich ’92, will collaborate. Longtime opera professor Jonathon Field is directing the production.
Offenbach’s Le mariage aux lanternes has been described as a semi-hidden gem. The farce—a simple love story set in a country village—consists of an overture and seven musical numbers connected by spoken dialogue, with a witty libretto by Michel Carré, one of the most prolific French librettists of his time. The operetta will be sung in French, with projected English supertitles.
Following this will be Rossini’s L'occasione fa il ladro, written when the composer had just turned twenty. It offers an early taste of the great masterpieces that flowed from Rossini's pen—delightful comedy, brilliant vocal writing, and an orchestral overture with some of his signature storm music. This work—a comedic romp where identities and affections are swapped between two pairs of would-be lovers—will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
This production will be one of the last at Oberlin for director Jonathon Field. He has announced his retirement as associate professor of opera theater after the academic year ends.
Field has been at the helm of Oberlin Opera Theater since 1997. A trailblazer in the world of opera, he has directed more than 120 opera productions across the United States, working with companies including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Arizona Opera and Opera Omaha. He is fascinated with traditional as well as modern stage techniques and he has developed and been using video-projected scenery for more than 25 years in productions that have been called “brilliant,” “dazzling” and “riveting.”
“Each opera has its individual flavor that comes from the countries of origin: France and Italy,” says Field. “The French opera deals with the rustic life that was still a part of the culture, with songs that everyone can enjoy even now.
“The Italian work has a more complex plot, dealing with mistaken identities and mixed up luggage, which we are calling ‘Love's Luggage Lost.’ Our design and technical team have created worlds that are modern, yet keep the unique flavor of each piece. We are also fortunate to have with us alumnus Joseph Mechavich as guest conductor.”
Mechavich has established a leading position on the modern music podium with breakthrough productions of contemporary operas such as Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, Great Scott, Out of Darkness: Two Remain, and Three Decembers, as well as Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Cold Sassy Tree, Of Mice and Men, and Wuthering Heights, to name a few. This season, Mechavich will be on the podium for La Boheme, La Cenerentola, and The Gift of the Magi at Kentucky Opera, where he serves as principal conductor and artistic consultant. He’ll also return to Opera North Carolina for Don Giovanni.
Field shares, “It will be a unique opportunity to see these pieces and,” he winks, “it’s two operas for the price of one!”
TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW: Oberlin Opera Theater’s Le mariage aux lanternes ("The Wedding by Lantern Light") and L'occasione fa il ladro ("Opportunity Makes a Thief") will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 10-12; the run concludes with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, November 13. Hall Auditorium is at 67 N. Main St. in Oberlin.
Tickets ($10, $8 for all students) are available by calling 800-371-0178, by visiting Central Ticket Service (67 N. Main St., Oberlin) noon to 5 p.m. weekdays, or through the online box office. All seating is general admission.
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