Offenbach’s “La Perichole” is, amazingly, based on truth

By Philippa Kiraly

Watching Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s 2nd Stage production of Offenbach’s “La Perichole,” it seems blatantly impossible it could have stemmed from a true story, as it is silly to the point of unbelievability. But Offenbach no doubt twisted the truth for his own ends, and the music is entrancing. However, this production is not really up to most of Seattle G & S’s polished summer productions.

whole is a lively, rambunctious romp, but there is almost no nuance here, and it would benefit from this; as it would from more singing that was softer and more shapely in its phrasing.

The opening is a bit bewildering. Set in a café with chorus and three sisters who sing solo and as a trio, none of the words this far are audible at all. Unless you read the synopsis first you won’t get it.

The words of the three main soloists—baritone Daniel Oakden as the Viceroy, soprano Megan Chenovick as La Perichole and tenor Wesley Rogers as her lover Paquillo—can always be heard, but all three tend to sing out far more than is necessary in Town Hall, and Chernovick’s top notes sound uncomfortably piercing to the ear. All three have excellent voices and operatic experience, able to embody such roles with ease, and all three similarly have acting ability. The production, though, has cast Oakden and Rogers as one-dimensional, wooden figures. Only in the musical highlight of the show, a musing aria sung in jail, can Rogers sing more quietly and with more natural emotion and phrasing.

Costumes by Carl Bronsdon and sets by Nathan Rodda are excellent, the first colorful attractive and appropriate, the latter simple, effective and convenient for quick scene changes.

This year, rather than small chamber ensemble with piano which usually has replaced an orchestra as an economic necessity, the music is undertaken by pianist Glenda Williams in charge, Dan Adams on percussion and Mara Ostrand on electronic keyboard. This was more successful as an orchestra substitute, though there were times when some of the solo singers, apart from the three leads, were somewhat overwhelmed by the instruments out and could not be clearly heard.

Nevertheless, the amount of work put into these productions is phenomenal and virtually all of it unpaid. The productions are always well worth a visit for a delightfully frothy evening’s entertainment, and the principals are the right age. This is the fifth production by Seattle G & S, done with love for and in honor of the late Hans Wolf, the founder of these winter operetta presentations.

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