By Annie Alleman, Chicago Tribune Naperville Sun
The dead of winter heats up with a rollicking comedic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan staged at The Mac in Glen Ellyn.
New Philharmonic presents “The Mikado” with performances at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and 3 p.m. Jan. 29 at the McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage. Kirk Muspratt serves as the music director and conductor of the New Philharmonic and Michael La Tour is the stage director and choreographer of “The Mikado.” There are nine members in the cast, including College of DuPage alum and Wheaton native David Govertsen as Poo-Bah.
“Gilbert and Sullivan were a composer and lyrics duo from late Victorian Britain. They wrote these satirical pieces and most of it was lampooning the British society at the time – politics and the crown,” Govertsen said. “‘Mikado’ is the same deal. It’s set in Japan, but it’s essentially a send-up of British politics. The character I play, his name is Poo-Bah and he’s very self-important. He’s one of these guys who’s very attached to his title. He’s a very important person because he has all these titles attached to him. It’s definitely a farce about late-19th century British culture.”
There are different ways to put on an opera, he said, either by doing a concert version with singing only or a full-stage version with singing, acting, costumes and sets. This one will be full staged with costumes and sets, he said.
The New Philharmonic will be in the orchestra pit and the cast will be on stage, in costume, acting and singing.
“It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “A lot of Gilbert and Sullivan pieces hinge on a strict interpretation of the rules or the law, even when it makes no sense. So there’s a lot of, ‘We really have to do it this way, even though it makes no sense if we really thought about it. But the law says this so we have to.’ That’s where a lot of the humor is derived. There’s a goofy love story, all the patter nonsense with the baritones, there’s fun ensembles, it will be visually fun – it’s the kind of piece that lends itself to visual interest. People who know Gilbert and Sullivan will know all of these tunes. There are a lot of memorable tunes.”
And don’t worry about being able to hear the singers over the 60-piece orchestra. They’re all trained professionals taught to project their voices.
“We’ll do what we do and it will be great,” Govertsen said. “It’s a fun piece and it’s in English and people will enjoy it.”
He’s done the title role before, but this is his first time singing the role of Poo-Bah.
Govertsen attended the College of DuPage before transferring to Northern Illinois University. Growing up in Wheaton, he attended shows frequently at The Mac.
“It’s been a home for a long time at the College of DuPage,” he said.
This isn’t his first time back singing at COD with the New Philharmonic – it’s probably the 11th, he said.
“I’ve had lots of opportunities to sing out there, which is nice,” he said. “It’s nice to sing at home. My mother lives out there so she’s very excited to come see it. There will be some regulars, for sure.”
He also started teaching voice at the college last fall. (He joked that his students are strongly encouraged to come to the show.)
There are some challenges to singing Gilbert and Sullivan. Though the show is in English, there’s still a bit of a language barrier, he said.
“A lot of it is period-specific, actually. Specifically aimed at (references) that contemporary audiences would have known what they were talking about in the 1880s,” he said. “Part of it is there’s a little bit of the strange language that you’ve got to learn to communicate. The other challenge for me is that most of the time singers — we do something like ‘La Boheme’ — sing all the way through. Well, this is set pieces with dialogue in between. Dialogue is not something I get to do all the time so I have to really think about how I’m going to deliver my lines and how I use my voice to carry the lines appropriately. I think that’s one of the challenges for me anyway, making sure my dialogue is up to snuff, as it were.
“I’m excited because it’s fun music and it’s a fun piece and everybody should have a good time. I’m excited to do the piece with everybody.”
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the Beacon-News.
New Philharmonic presents ‘The Mikado’
When: Jan. 28-29
Where: McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
Information: 630-942-4000; www.attemac.org