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Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island

Kara Vertucci stars as the rebellious Princess Ida in the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island’s 2023 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida. (Photo by NanMagna. Copyright 2023 The Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island.)

The battle of the sexes will break out into open warfare when the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island brings its 2023 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic Princess Ida to the Smithtown Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m.  The production will feature a 23-piece orchestra.

 Princess Ida—which debuted in 1884 at London’s Savoy opera, with book and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan—is a favorite with Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados, with its score in particular regarded as perhaps Sullivan’s greatest.  The current production is the Light Opera Company’s first since 2007.

More dramatic in tone than any other Gilbert & Sullivan work, c In the end the story boils down to whether the opera’s young people are doomed to grow into their parents, repeating all their mistakes, or if they can escape the machinations of their parents, move beyond hatred and violence, and forge a new future for themselves.

In the new production of the opera, Kara Vertucci of Lindenhurst plays Princess Ida and Joseph Anthony Smith of Freeport plays Prince Hilarion, with Chris Jurak of Brightwaters as King Gama and Ben Salers of Northport as King Hildebrand.  Lady Psyche is played by Patricia Gallagher of West Hempstead, and Lady Blanche by Terry Hochler of East Meadow, with Alyssa M. Mener of Massapequa Park as Melissa; Jordan Breslow of Bellmore plays Florian and Richard Risi of Locust Valley plays Cyril.  Ida’s brothers, the formidable Warriors Three, are played by Henry Horstmann of Lindenhurst (Arac), John Benvenuto of Floral Park (Guron) and Marc Eliot Stein of Brooklyn (Scynthius).  Tamara Shyngle of Brentwood plays Sacharissa, Claudia Arroyo of Port Washington is Chloe and Hanna Roth of Upper Brookville plays Ada.  The director is Gayden Wren, and the music director is Leonard Lehrman.

Princess Ida is unlike any other Gilbert & Sullivan opera,” said Wren, a longtime member of the company and also the author of an acclaimed book about Gilbert & Sullivan.  “It’s Shakespearean in its scope, and its humor—which combines farce, slapstick, satire and burlesque—is in the service of a story of unique emotional power.  Ida and Hilarion are two sides of the same coin, young aristocrats who’ve been pawns in their fathers’ rivalry almost since they were born.  The story pits them as enemies, but as the opera progresses they begin to see something of themselves in each other, and to sense the outlines of a future different from the one they’ve always been told awaits them.

“Ultimately this is a story of generational conflict, of young people trying to get past the mistakes and hatreds of their parents, trying to forge a new world they might actually live in together,” Wren concluded.  “When people ask me what it’s about, I say it’s about a prince, a princess and an arranged marriage … but also about climate change, racial and ethnic rivalries, inequality, social justice and pretty much anything else that’s going on in the world today.  It’s funny, it’s beautiful, but there’s no Gilbert & Sullivan story that’s more directly relevant to the world of today.”

Princess Ida will be presented on Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m. at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street in Smithtown.  Admission is $30, seniors and students $25.  For further information, call (516) 619-7415 or visit www.gaslocoli.org.

From left, Richard Risi, Sabrina Lopez and Michael John Ruggiere in a scene from the show. Photo by NanMagna/The Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island

The Mikado: A Long Island Fantasy, a new approach to the classic comic opera, will appear for one night only in Commack when the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island brings its 2022 production of the beloved show to Suffolk Y-JCC on June 17.

Directed by Tony Tambasco and with the orchestra conducted by music director Stuart Watarz, this all-new Mikado recasts the most famous of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas to be set on Long Island’s Gold Coast in the 1920s, the era of Prohibition, the flappers, silent movies and The Great Gatsby.

“I have attempted to recover the spirit of Gilbert & Sullivan’s intentions with a production that holds a mirror up to the present day, while also engaging in light-hearted fairy-tale-telling,” Tambasco said. 

“Setting The Mikado on a fantasy Long Island of 100 years ago allows us to activate the `Gatsby’ mythology that is a part of the cultural heritage of Long Island in the service of telling Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic fairy tale of a community overcoming the nonsensical cruelty imposed on its people.”

The score is packed with famous songs, including the lovely ballad “The Sun, Whose Rats Are All Ablaze,” the rattling patter song “I’ve Got a Little List,” the ingenious trio “I Am So Proud” and the wistful “Titwillow.”  The story is a merry farce that’s as funny now as it was in 1885 when the show premiered, and virtually defines the idea of “fun for the whole family.”

The cast includes more than a dozen of the company’s finest singers and dancers, more than meeting the challenge of  the production. 

Richard Risi plays Nanki-Poo, the wandering minstrel who’s secretly the son of the all-powerful Mikado (Lloyd Baum).  Sabrina Lopez is Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo’s secret love, with Michael John Ruggiere as her guardian Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.  Tamara Shyngle and Delaney R. Page play Yum-Yum’s schoolmates Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo, with Kenneth Kopolovicz as the pompous Pooh-Bah and Jordan Breslow as the wily Pish-Tush. Patricia Gallagher plays the fearsome aristocrat Katisha, who claims Nanki-Poo in marriage and won’t take “No” as an answer.

The most popular comic opera ever written, the only one of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas popular even in non-English-speaking countries and the first ever to be made into a movie, the show has been a hit on Broadway as The Hot Mikado (1939), and has even had a movie—“Topsy Turvy” (1999)—made about its creation. It remains arguably the most popular work of music theater ever.

The Mikado: A Long Island Fantasy will be presented on Friday, June 17 at 8 p.m. at Suffolk Y/JCC, 74 Hauppauge Road in Commack. Admission is $30, seniors and students $25. For further information, call 516-619-7415 or visit www.gaslocoli.org.