The Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s (VLOC) staging of the operetta La Périchole was a testament to the idea that opera can be a light affair. Composed by 19th Century, Paris-based composer Jacques Offenbach, with a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, VLOC’s production is musically directed by Joseph Sorge, and directed by Madeleine Smith. La Périchole is the epitome of lyrical lightness and unfettered fun.
Staged, in English with English surtitles, La Périchole’s story concerns two street singers, Périchole and her lover Piquillo, living in 1750s Lima, Peru, who get entangled with the outlandish Don Andrés de Ribiero, the Viceroy of Peru, after he sees Périchole and falls in love with her. From there, Périchole agrees to become his mistress, and an outlandish love triangle and series of farcical misadventures ensures. The operetta was meant to satirize Napoléon III’s court.
Lead soprano Emma Jensen was magnificent as Périchole. Christopher Allison as Piquillo, not only sang well but embodied the silliness of his somewhat dim character.
Blair Eig played Don Andres de Ribiero as a haughty eccentric who liked to stroll among his subjects in disguise. Kent Woods and Tom Goode were impressive as Don Gomez de Pantellas and Don Pedro de Hinojosa respectfully.
Gary Sullivan had a comical role as an old prisoner. The wonderful cast was rounded out by Manuelita (Carla Rountree), Violetta (Julia Vollmers), Frasquinella (Stevie Miller), Ninetta (Amanda Jones), Anita (Jade Jeon), Berginella (Christie Phillips), Bambilla (Jasmine L. Mays), Michael Keith (Notarie), and Bill Rogers (Notarie).
The musical number “Incognito,” with additional lyrics by Eig, was an Act I standout. Jensen slayed her aria, “The Letter Song.” Jensen, Eig, Woods, and Goode were impressive in “That glass of wine.” One of the show’s many standout numbers was the Ensemble’s Act I Finale.
“What means this burst” by Jensen and Allison sounded great to the ear and also demonstrated the chemistry between the two singers. They repeated their magic in “Once the Viceroy.” Allison performed a dynamite solo in “I now present.
Every musical number was made stronger by the fantastic chorus, which included Mary Mitchell, Deborah Peetz, Rusty Suter, Ed Vilade, Rand Huntzinger, Ralph Johnson, Gabriella Jones, Carlton Maryott, Jane Maryott, Christine Massimei, Maria Wilson, David Bradley, Alice Drew, Lena Goldweber, Tara Hockensmith, Chuck Howell, and Laura Hubbard.
Director Smith allowed her cast the room to ad lib topical jokes (e.g. “fake news”) into the show. Sorge and Assistant Music Director Rebecca Henry ensured that Offenbach’s score was played to perfection.
The set design, by Bill Pressley, consisted of a cafe, a 1920s art deco-ish apartment and a prison—all set pieces rolled in via scenery wagon. The cafe and the apartment set pieces were spot on. Costume Designer Denise Young excelled with both the sleek tuxedos and 1920s flapper-style dresses she outfitted several of the actors in.
The Victorian Lyric Opera’s entertaining La Périchole is an operatic, romantic-comedy fun for the average theater goer and lovers of opera alike. You will have a wonderful time!
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
La Perichole plays through Today March 5, 2017, at 2 PM at The Victorian Lyric Opera Company performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at the Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.