The In Series’ An Operetta Holiday, written and directed by Nick Olcott, is a charming aural journey through the era between opera and musicals. Four male and four female singers delivered a wonderful selection of twenty-nine songs from popular operettas.
In the first act, we see the eight singers emerge on stage dressed in formal wear. Each song is loosely related to the next through a series of dialogues which take place in between. Operetta–being popular between the late 1800s and the early 1900s–brings us overblown moods and situations that seem silly by today’s standards, yet these singers managed to carry the roles throughout each number.
Baritenor Garrett Matthews and soprano Cara Gonzalez deliver the somewhat culturally awkward “Indian Love Call” with sensitivity and aplomb. Cara also shines in “Ein Wiener Waltzer” where she sings about her rendezvous with a secret lover.
Suzanne Lane play a runaway nun in colonial New Orleans with a coy version of “Naughty Marietta,” but handles heavier fare with gusto along with tenor Cornelius David in “It Never, Never Can be Love.”
Baritone Alex Alburqueque is an absolute delight, with a rich voice which carries through his solo number “The Vagabond King Waltz” as well as the boisterous quartet and company numbers. He was one of the strongest singers in the cast, though there was no one who I thought was lacking in skill.
Many of the highlights, for me, came in the second act. Melissa Jean Chavez and Cornelius David sing the famous “Ah, sweet mystery of life!” in which Melissa’s soaring voice is really allowed to shine. This is followed by Cara Gonzalez’s heartbreaking rendition of “Lover, come back to me,” which created one of those moments where you could feel the audience’s silence in response to such a raw and emotional delivery.
Katherine Fili delivers her standout number in “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß.” Katherine slinks around the stage describing, believably, how well she can seduce men. The male singers crowd around her and fall back, overwhelmed with lust, as she bares a shoulder.
Bass-baritone Simon Charette gets his moment in “Lippen schweigen” pulled from The Merry Widow. The company also stands out with a lovely rendition of “Brüderlein, Schwesterlein” from Die Fledermaus as the closing number.
Singing in German is not the easiest. The abrupt sounds produced by the language don’t allow for much subtlety, yet each singer handled their non-English numbers well and the delivery, in the end, was quite beautiful. Their comedic timing is also to be commended. Older works, such as operettas, are sometimes difficult to navigate due to their outdated cultural stereotypes. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my opinion, they handled the more obvious issues in a way that highlighted the ridiculousness of the stereotypes.
Costume Designer Donna Breslin is to be commended for her work in providing the singers with outfits which are appropriate, beautiful, and able to add to the narrative instead of detracting from it. Set Designer Jonathan Dahm Robertson also lends us an intimate café setting, where the singers move around small tables. In the center is the piano where Music Director and Pianist Frank Conlon plays for the duration of the production.
If you are a fan of opera or of modern musicals, The In Series is an absolute gem of a company in the DC Metro area. An Operetta Holiday highlights their ability to find music from a lost age and deliver it in a way that modern audiences will appreciate. An Operetta Holiday brought us some of the area’s strongest singers. There was not a weak voice in the bunch and it certainly piqued my interest in attending future productions. The In Series is doing as much for music as it is for historical preservation of forgotten forms and their skill and flair shines through in An Operetta Holiday.
Running Time: Two hours, with one 20-minute intermission.
An Operetta Holiday played through December 10, 2017 at The In Series performing at Gala Hispanic Theatre- 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010. More information about The In Series’ upcoming productions can be found online.