Skylark Opera Holds 5th Annual Summer Festival, Now thru 6/17

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For its fifth annual Summer Festival, Skylark Opera presents two contrasting American masterpieces, Victor Herbert's exquisite operetta MADEMOISELLE MODISTE and Leonard Bernstein's exuberant musical WONDERFUL TOWN. The productions will be staged in repertory from tonight, June 8 through June 17 at E.M. Pearson Theatre, 312 N. Hamline Ave., Saint Paul.   

Mlle. Modiste opens the 2012 Festival tonight, June 8 at 8:00pm.  Kristin Kenning, who helmed last year's The Vagabond King, returns to direct the spirited love story between a feisty French hat seller, Fifi (Jessica Fredrickson, "Cinderella" in the 2011 Ordway production), and a dashing aristocratic military officer, Etienne (Robb Asklof).
 
As Cinderella, one critic wrote that "Fredrickson is delightfully natural in the role, with a powerhouse voice that seems to just float out of her."  Another reviewer noted that "Fredrickson has a light, ethereal soprano that she uses perfectly…."  As Fifi (a/k/a Mlle. Modiste), she'll have the chance to soar with the beautiful melodies, written by Victor Herbert, arguably the most gifted and beloved stage composer of his generation.  The production is bolstered by a laugh-out-loud libretto and a score that's been called "one of the supreme gems of the American operetta canon."   Songs include "The Time, The Place, The Girl," "Kiss Me Again," "Hats Make The Woman" and "I Want What I Want When I Want It." 
 
Set in 1905 Paris, Mlle. Modiste also features a colorful store owner (Beth King), a wealthy couple from Keokuk, Iowa (Carolyn Cavadini andChristopher Kehoe), a cranky Count (Paul Hindemith) and his nephew Gaston (Brad Benoit), and a chorus of military officers and hat shop girls. 
 
To complement Mlle. Modiste, Skylark revisits Wonderful Town, the critically-acclaimed Leonard Bernstein musical, showcased in its 2001 season.  Bob Neu, who directed last summer's smashing success of Bernstein's On the Town, also brings his attention to this rollicking production, winner of five Tony Awards, including the 1953 Best Musical.  
 
In Wonderful Town, opening Saturday, June 9 at 8:00pm, two sisters from Ohio – the witty aspiring writer Ruth (Sarah Gibson) and the beautiful would-be actress Eileen (Sarah Lawrence) – set out to conquer New York City in the 1930s, encountering unforgettable characters and hilarious situations as they search for success and romance. Bernstein's brilliant score captures the zest of the big-band era in dazzling and varied songs such as "Ohio," "It's Love," "Conga," "Swing" and "A Quiet Girl."
 
Tickets are available at www.ticketworks.com or by phone at 612-343-3390. A festival package for both productions is $75 for adults and $40 for students, and single tickets are $43 with discounts available for seniors, students, children, first-time patrons and groups, and a limited number of front-row seats for $25. 
 

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