Ohio Light Opera to Host Operetta Symposium again this Summer

Presentations and performances to be held July 28-31 at The College of Wooster

27 March, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Ohio Light Opera's 37th Summer Festival will feature a four-day symposium, titled "Taking Light Opera Seriously." The event, which was exceptionally well received when it debuted last year, will be held July 28-31 in Wishart Hall and various other locations on the campus of The College of Wooster.

"We felt it was important to host a symposium again this year because of the enthusiasm it generated last season," said Steve Daigle, artistic director of Ohio Light Opera. "Once again, we'll have composers, lecturers, and live performances."

One of those live performances will be an original modern musical drama honoring Mary Ellis, a major operetta star in early 1900s. Ellis, whose prodigious stage career spanned 75 years, performed roles by Giacomo Puccini and appeared at the Metropolitan Opera opposite Caruso and Chaliapin. On Broadway, she created the title role in Friml's Rose Marie, and lead roles in the London production of Kern's Music in the Air. The program will be written and arranged by Daigle and presented by Julie Wright Costa, associate artistic director of Ohio Light Opera, who will bring the world of Mary Ellis to life through stories, songs, and reflections.

Another live performance will focus on songs from the cutting-room floor with company cast members singing songs that did not make it to the original show, while a third performance will feature songs from outside the traditional international realm of operetta to include works from Spain, Russia, Italy, and Greece.

In addition to the performances, a panel of experts on operetta will gather to talk about the rich history of this often-underappreciated genre. Among the presenters will be Peter Filichia, who has spent nearly half a century as a newspaper, magazine, and online columnist and critic. He is the author of five books, including Broadway Musical MVPs, 1960-2010, and The Most Valuable Players of the Past 50 Seasons, and past president of Drama Desk Awards as well as current president of Theatre World Awards, which he emcees each June.

Joining Filichia, will be Philip Furia, professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the author of six books on musical theatre, including biographies of Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Johnny Mercer. He also is the editor of the compendium on American song lyricists in the 377-volume Dictionary of Literary Biography, and longtime radio host of WHQR's Great American Songbook.

Also participating will be Richard Norton, co-author of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle and author of the three-volume A Chronology of American Musical Theatre; Christopher Webber, a British actor, writer, and stage director, as well as author of The Zarzuela Companion; and Michael Miller, chair of Ohio Light Opera's Board of Directors and president of Operetta Foundation, which has produced and staged versions of lesser-known shows, and released more than 25 CDs and DVDs of rare operetta and early musical theatre.

Symposium tickets are $40 per day or $130 for the week. For more information, call 330-263-2345 or visit Ohio Light Opera's website.