Operetta’s Greatest Hits

Conceived by Michael Kotze and Roger Bingamanlight opera works

Music Direction by Marta Johnson

Stage Director/Choreographer: Rudy Hogenmiller

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Nichols Concert Hall, Music Institute of Chicago

Dazzling singing propels the operetta songbook

Kudos to the creatives at Light Opera Works for creating a revue of the finest songs from Viennese, Berlin, London, and American operettas.  These wonderful songs can easily stand on their own devoid of plot. They range from waltzes, ballads, polkas, and marches contain lush music and fine lyrics; romance, frivolous encounters, often satirical, and sentimental tones prevail. These short, light musical pieces have spoken libretto yet feature classically trained opera singers. Beginning in the 1840’s, operetta became popular in Europe and America.

With a chamber orchestra consisting of four: piano, violin, clarinet/flute, and bass, the operetta’s sounded fine under Marta Johnson’s direction, the works soared. The cast of six, featuring three sopranos: Alicia Berneche, Natalie Ford and Colette Tod with three tenors: George Andrew Wolf, James Rank and Matthew Giebel sang their hearts out doing the popular operetta hits. They seemed to be having a good time singing  some of the finest tunes ever composed. I was particularly impressed with the strong pipes of Matthew Giebel and the sophisticated style from Alicia Berneche.

In Operetta’s Greatest Hits, we get a fine assortment of popular operetta tunes beginning with Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) featuring a medley from Die Fledermaus among others. Franz Lehar (1870- 1948) sends us “Yours Is My Heart Alone” sung with power by Giebel.  Jacques Offenbach, Emmerich Kalman  are featured.  Lehar’s The Merry Widow gets  a full treatment. Act one of the two hour stylish concert features the early operetta classics while act two moves us to London and America.

operetta's greatest hits

Gilbert and Sullivan are highlighted with a medley of their patter songs deftly executed by all six cast members with George Andrew Wolf leading the way. We hear Rank and Berneche warble Rudolf Friml’s (1879-1972) “Indian Love Call”  from Rose-Marie. Natalie Ford nails”Italian Street Song” from Victor Herbert’s  (1859-1924) Naughty Marietta. And, of course, there is Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951) who gave us The Student Prince among other operettas. Giebel, Rank and Wolf soar in “Serenade.” while Rank wonderfully sings “The Desert Song.” The show ends with Herbert’s sweet song from Naughty Marietta. “Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life.”

This is a marvelous evening of wonderful, often tear-jerking lush, highly romantic music. You’ll be captivated, invigorated with this nostalgic trip  back through the music that inspired and morphed into the modern Broadway musical. An evening with marvelous melodies, fine harmonies, smooth music and soaring vocals awaits your visit to Nicholas Concert Hall in Evanston. Take your teens to experience much of the finest music ever written. Operettas may be light, fun-filled, even satirical, but their tunes are wonderful. I can’t think of a better way to expose youngsters to the glorious music from operettas than taking them to Light Opera Works Operetta’s Greatest Hits. Share the joy of beautiful music, it is food for the soul. This well sung production is truly heavenly!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Nicholas Concert Hall,1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL, call 847-920-5360, www.musictheaterworks.com, tickets $30 -$60, age 21 and under 1/2 off,  Saturday, Oct. 6 2& 8 pm, Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 pm, Wednesday, Oct 10 at 2pm, Friday, Oct. 12 at 8 pm, Saturday,Oct 12 at 2 & 8 pm, Sunday, Oct 14 at 2pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission.

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