Iolanthe @ Ohio Light Opera 6/30/10
In Gilbert and Sullivan’s nineteenth-century era elves and fairies held the same popular cachet that vampires and werewolves do today. Just as in “Twilight” or “True Blood,” the nonhuman creatures could be both lovely and dangerous. The Ohio Light Opera’s “Iolanthe” delights in the splendid, frothy, utterly musical side of mortals mingling with fairies. While there are supposed to be fatal consequences (the fairy Iolanthe is sentenced by the Queen of the Fairies [Alta Dantzler] to death for marrying a mortal ), it’s all played for laughs. The enchantment (for the audience) begins when the operetta opens with a summoning sequence for the exiled (as it turns out, not executed) Iolanthe (Tania Mandzy) that both honors and mocks Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Iolanthe’s son with the Lord Chancellor, the shepherd Strephon (Jon Gerhard) loves the shepherdess, Phyllis (Caroline Bassett Miller). Phyllis becomes jealous when she sees Strephon with Iolanthe (fairies do not age) and refuses to believe his story that “she’s my mother.” The strong and lively ensemble cast delights with the score (one of Sullivan’s finest), but the dancing troupe of fairies (each fairy shows unique manifestations of fey vibrations) often steals the show–whether “tripping hither, tripping thither” (as they sing) less than perfectly or just being present, they supply constant amusement. Local references add to the fun too. At one point there’s a nod to Opera Cleveland’s last production when another cast member tells a hysterical soprano that she’s “no Lucia.” Director Steven Daigle and choreographer Carol Hageman, along with the orchestra led by Steven Byess, have created a special summer magic worth the drive to Wooster.
Cool Cleveland, 7/7/10