This Saturday, I’m looking forward to heading north for the Shreveport Opera’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore by the dynamic duo of British light opera, librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. H.M.S. Pinafore is just the latest in a line of Gilbert and Sullivan operas staged by the Shreveport Opera in recent years: last February, the company produced the duo’s Pirates of Penzance and, two years ago, they gave The Mikado in an unforgettable and imaginative contemporary staging with guest appearances by Japanese pop icons Godzilla and Pikachu. Based on this excellent track record, I have high hopes for this weekend’s H.M.S. Pinafore.
In this hilarious opera, Captain Corcoran of the British vessel H.M.S. Pinafore insists his daughter Josephine marry Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty. Josephine, however, loves another – lower-class sailor Ralph Rackstraw. Silliness ensues and the story’s larger subtext transforms H.M.S. Pinafore into a witty parody of British society in the Victorian era. Premiered in 1878, H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.
Saturday’s production by the Shreveport Opera is led by director Dean Anthony and conductor Jerome Shannon. Shreveport Opera resident artists Suzanne Grogan and John Riesen play lovers Josephine and Ralph Rackstraw while guests Stephen Quint and Christian Bowers play Sir Joseph Porter and Captain Corcoran, respectively. The Shreveport Symphony Orchestra will accompany the stage action live from the orchestra pit. H.M.S. Pinafore is sung in English, although English supertitles will also be projected above the stage.
One of the things I love most about the Shreveport Opera’s productions is their vibrancy. So often we incorrectly assume opera is all about that fat lady in the horned helmet desperately singing as loudly as she can muster. That’s not reality though, and it’s not what you get in Shreveport! In Shreveport, the singers are in prime physical shape (some run marathons in their spare time) and the lively productions are complemented by colorful backdrops and fanciful costumes. There’s plenty of stage action and – with everything so full of excitement – productions draw as many children and young adults as the older patrons you would expect to see.
How does this magic happen? It happens because the Shreveport Opera has cultivated a thriving musical community around itself through its educational outreach, themed opera dinners, and other fundraising activities. Despite everything else they do, they have not lowered their artistic standards and their three annual opera productions remain the core activities of this impressive organization. The Shreveport Opera has made itself – and music – a part of daily life in North Louisiana.
I am always thrilled to make the drive north from Alexandria to attend the fantastic Shreveport Opera productions. In fact, I consider the Shreveport Opera our local opera company here in Central Louisiana too! Hope to see you in Shreveport this Saturday! H.M.S. Pinafore starts at 7:30 PM at the RiverView Theater in downtown Shreveport. Buy your tickets here!
In case you cannot make it to Shreveport this weekend, remember, Louisiana College will stage another Gilbert and Sullivan favorite this March. Pirates of Penzance will run at Louisiana College’s Martin Performing Arts Center in Pineville March 10 through 20 with evening shows beginning at 7 PM Thursday through Saturday and matinees starting at 2 PM on Sundays. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit TicketCentral.
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a composer, music scholar, and advocate of music. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college located on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. While there, Jackson completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” He has followed classical music around the world, attending the BachFest Leipzig in Germany, Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, and many concerts across Louisiana and Texas. Resident in Alexandria, Louisiana, Jackson works with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana as Series Director of the Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series. He also writes the program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, blogs at MusicCentral, and continues to study other aspects of music in his spare time. His four-movement Suite for Solo Guitar, Op. 21 received its world premiere on November 5, 2015 at Abendmusik Alexandria.