Since their legendary “Carmen on the Lake” production of 2003 that gave Wichita audiences their very own “Arena di Verona,” Wichita Grand Opera has presented an annual Opera on the Lake performance at Bradley Fair Plaza under Kansas’ evening skies. This year’s Opera on the Lake pro- duction, Gilbert & Sullivan’s comedic masterpiece “The Pirates of Penzance,” presented on May 20 and 21 at 8 p.m., transforms the plaza into “Arena di Bradley Fair,” a setting unlike anywhere in the nation, built right on the shore of the picturesque lake, including the construction of a reserved-seating amphitheater complete with the City of Wichita’s floating stage, a pirate ship, and an island, concluding with fireworks at 10:15. This will be a two-night comedic spectacular, filled with toe-tapping music and great choreography.
It is suitable for the entire family, performed in English, and features WGO’s internationally-recognized orchestra and chorus, making it an evening that you will want to mark on your calendar! “The Pirates of Penzance” was an instant hit after its premiere in New York in December 1879, with the “New York Times” exclaiming that “it would be impossible for a confirmed misanthrope to refrain from merriment over it.” Containing parodies of numerous operas, including the famous Anvil Chorus from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” “The Pirates of Penzance” is full of whistle-worthy tunes that will entertain audiences for weeks after the produc- tion. From the Major-General’s overwhelmingly popular “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” to the Pirates’ chorus “Come, Friends, who Plough the Sea,” the Gilbert & Sullivan masterpiece has firmly established itself as an audience favorite on the opera stage, on Broadway and the West End, and in films.
Taking its place alongside “The Mikado” and “H.M.S. Pinafore” as one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular operas, “The Pirates of Penzance” tells the story of a dutiful young lad, Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed by his hard-of-hearing nursemaid to a band of pirates. Upon his release from his indentures, Frederic wishes to reform his piratical ways and feels bound to help the bumbling policemen of Her Majesty’s service wipe out the hapless band of ruffians. Along the way, he falls in love with Mabel, the beautiful daughter of one Major-General Stanley.
Back by popular demand, Metropolitan Opera tenor Brian Frutiger, whose characters are always uniquely entertaining and full of life, will be joining WGO as the pompous well-meaning modern Major-General Stanley. WGO audience favorite Michael Nansel leads the pirates as the conniving Pirate King, and rising artist Clark Sturdevant debuts with Wichita Grand Opera as the handsome duty-bound Frederic. Coloratura soprano Lydia Bechtel effortlessly maneuvers through Mabel’s dramatic vocal pyrotechnics, and comedienne Tara Curtis makes her debut with Wichita Grand Opera as the piratical maid Ruth. Metropolitan Opera and Houston Grand Opera director and baritone John Stephens, who audiences remember as the director and show-stopping Pirate King of Wichita Grand Opera’s 2008 production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” returns to direct this star-studded cast.
As a subscription event in WGO’s 2016 Season, regular-priced tickets for reserved seating in Bradley Fair’s central plaza are $85, $58 or $37, with senior, student, group, and corporate discounts also available. For a truly VIP experience, Newport Grill and Wichita Grand Opera have partnered to provide a delicious three-course dinner on the Newport Grill patio at 6:30. As the Pirates take the stage, relax and enjoy the action directly from your table. Tickets for this Dinner and Performance Package of culinary and operatic delights are $150 per person or $1000 for a table of eight, a portion of which is tax-deductible.
Thanks to the vision of Textron Aviation, the Wichita Eagle, and the Laham Family Foundation, as building such an outdoor amphitheater is a setting like the lake at Bradley Fair is a major undertaking. If you prefer to see the opera indoors, “Pirates” will be performed at the beautifully-restored McPherson Opera House on May 22 at 6 p.m., but don’t miss the boat with Opera on the Lake. Tickets for “The Pirates of Penzance” can be purchased in person at Century II Performing Arts Center, by phone at the WGO Box Office at (316) 262-8054 and online at www.SelectaSeat.com.