Thursday, January 5, 2017

'To dream the impossible dream': Indianapolis Opera changes its announced schedule to complete the 2016-17 season

Indianapolis Opera, the 42-year-old city-based opera company, underwent a major change of leadership and artistic direction a couple of years ago. Now it's publicly  adjusting to an administrative shift spurred by the departure of general director Kevin Patterson in November.

To end the current season, David Craig Starkey, new general director, and Robert Driver, artistic and new initiatives adviser, have replaced "The Jewel Box" with "Man of La Mancha." According to an Indianapolis Opera news release, that change will "continue the Company's direction of engaging production partners to bring its audiences a higher level of diversity and quality in its offerings." 

Starkey is founder and artistic director of Asheville Lyric Opera, which presented "Man of La Mancha" last July. Driver left the position of general/artistic director of Indianapolis Opera in 1991, after 10 years, to take on a similar position with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

"Man of La Mancha"  is a 1964 musical based on a stage play that Dale Wasserman adapted from Cervantes' "Don Quixote." Wasserman's book and the songs by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion made up an award-winning package. The show won five Tony Awards and has been revived twice on Broadway since the original production.

The two-volume Cervantes classic (1605 and 1615) is sometimes regarded as the birth of the novel. With a wealth of digressions, it presents the story of a Spanish knight so besotted with reading tales of chivalry that he sets out on adventures as a knight-errant. His quest is presented in the musical as representing the author's resistance to circumstances that have caused his imprisonment. Don Quixote's idealistic delusions knock him and his companion, Sancho Panza, up against one aspect of reality after another. He finally is forced to return home, dying penitent in his bed.

No cast decisions have been made for the Indianapolis performances, which will take place at the Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University on the same dates as the originally scheduled show. "The Jewel Box" is a concoction by English music critic and librettist Paul Griffiths using melodies of Wolfgang Mozart; the piece was written to commemorate the 200th anniversary in 1991 of the Austrian composer's death. 

This is the description of the show, which as of this morning is still on the IO web site: "The two-act original work combines concert arias, minor arias that were once plundered by rival composers, and neglected excerpts from unfinished Mozart operas that were gathered by Griffiths, given new English texts and woven together with dialogue. The result is a drama about the composer who steps inside the proscenium and manipulates his characters to create a new genre of opera."

IO marketing director Jill Vandegriff told me that a small group of resident singers under contract to the company will be part of the cast, and that leading roles still have to be cast. The previous Indianapolis Opera Ensemble members were involved in last season's production of  Jonathan Dove's "Mansfield Park."

Tickets already purchased for "The Jewel Box" will be honored for "Man of La Mancha."

"All the marketing that we have in place (for this season) we will be changing to reflect the show change," she said. "If you look at arts organizations, we all have a subscriber issue and also an issue with bringing single-ticket buyers back into the fold." 

There is hope that switching gears in the 2016-17 season can take advantage of the trend away from subscriptions and toward interest in individual shows: Single-ticket sales for two earlier productions this season — "Happy Birthday Wanda June" and "The Barber of Seville — were "600-plus," Vandegriff added. The shows were presented, respectively, at Schrott and at the Center for the Performing Arts' Tarkington Theater in Carmel.