Anyone who’s seen the documentary “RBG” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will certainly remember the scene where she appears on stage for a Washington National Opera production. The petite octogenarian is seen in full costume, engulfed in a huge chair, taking on a speaking-only role. In Gaetano Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment (La fille du régiment),” Ginsburg played the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp.
It’s fitting that Ginsburg, a huge opera fan, made her acting debut in that particular show. The 1840s comic opera is, like the legendary jurist, full of wit and humor, and the opera serves in part as a commentary on the social structure of the day.
Donizetti’s classic comic opera is referred to by some as a rom-com — it’s funny and lighthearted, which is why Wendy Taucher selected it for her upcoming summer production. “We like to do comedies,” Taucher said of her production company, Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater. “They’re easy on the eye — good summer fare — and work really well in the space.” The space being the lawn at Featherstone, where for the past seven summers, Taucher has presented an abbreviated version of a classic comic opera under a tent in one of the Island’s most magical settings.
As with her previous productions, Taucher shortened the piece to just over an hour, added humorous commentary for those who don’t speak French and are unfamiliar with the story, supplied the performers with fun, colorful costumes, and heightened the humor with her own flair for comedy. These signature touches make Taucher’s salon opera presentations accessible to all. “I really like hearing the positive feedback from people who would never normally go to the opera,” said Taucher. “It’s also great to hear from people who love opera. It’s really unique to be able to see performers at this level [of talent] sing close up. The intimacy of this setting is really thrilling.”
Once again, Taucher has recruited a New York City–based cast with impressive credentials, including three Metropolitan Opera soloists.
So Young Park will take on the title role, and sing Mozart’s Queen of the Night in the Met’s upcoming “Magic Flute.” Park has performed internationally at many of the world’s greatest venues. Her voice has been described as “stunning” by the L.A. Times, and “dead-accurate” by the New York Times. Spanish conductor Plácido Domingo has featured her numerous times in his live performances.
Park will sing one of the two famous arias from “Daughter of the Regiment” — a comedic song called “The Music Lesson.” The song has been part of Taucher’s repertoire for her opera-themed dinners for many years. She notes that in large part, it informed her decision to produce Donizetti’s opera this year. Taucher describes the song as portraying “a petulant teenager whose music lesson goes south.”
Tenor Luke Grooms, who will play the male lead, is also a Metropolitan Opera artist, and recently starred in the national tour of “Phantom of the Opera” and in the off-Broadway premiere of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” at Carnegie Hall. “We needed a particular kind of tenor for this role,” Taucher said. “You have to have the high notes, and also have a light touch and a lot of movement in the voice.”
The other well-known aria from the opera, “Ah! mes amis,” requires the tenor to hit nine high Cs — a feat which few tenors are capable of, and one which helped establish renowned Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s legendary career.
Mezzo Karolina Pilou, the second female lead, made her Met debut in 2017 as Berta in Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.” “We decided to hold full auditions this year, partially because of the demanding role for the tenor,” Taucher said. “Also because we have a very specific deep mezzo role.” Pilou’s voice has been described as “chocolaty” by the New York Times.
Bass-baritone Adelmo Guidarelli, like Grooms, is a double opera/theater threat, having appeared in the awardwinning one-man comedy show “Operation Opera” and on Ryan Seacrest’s “Bank of Hollywood,” and in opera houses around the world.
Longtime Taucher collaborator Donavon Dietz will round out the cast by providing the narrative and a bit of humor. He will play a cross-dressing fortune teller, a character invention of Taucher’s.
Taucher and music director Ed Bak held auditions in New York City to meet the very specific demands of the music. The opera is vocally demanding from start to finish, requiring its lead singers to bring sufficient technique to meet its challenges. Both the director and music director were pleased to have been able to bring all of their first choices to the Vineyard. “All four of them can really act as well as sing,” Taucher said. “Even though they’ve never sung together before, their voices blend really, really well.”
Taucher values entertainment as much as she does musical virtuosity. The show’s experienced comedic actors will guarantee a lively performance, while the extraordinary voices from among the best and brightest are certain to please even the most die-hard Island opera fans.
“The Daughter of the Regiment” premieres on Friday, July 27, at 6 pm, with an Opera Gala and performance at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs. Gala tickets include an award ceremony, the opera, and a post-performance supper with the cast. Performances continue Saturday, July 28, at 7 pm, and Sunday, July 29, at 7 pm. For more information, visit wendytaucherdanceoperatheater.com.