Fire Island Opera Presents L'arbre Enchante at the Pines Today
"The Pines," the gay summer vacation destination off the coast of Long Island, is usually known more for groovy disco or throbbing dance music than for Opera, but this weekend, that will change when the Fire Island Opera Festival touches down in the whimsical beach community.
The festival will take place over three days, with a number of ancillary "warm-up" events leading up to the pièce de résistance, a production of L'arbre Enchanté ("The Magic Tree") to be staged in the newly rebuilt Pavilion nightclub at 10pm on Saturday (today, August 24) and 2pm on Sunday (August 25).
The festival is the brainchild of theater and Opera director, Edwin Cahill, and music director, Bradley Moore. They got the idea while attending the Fire Island Dance Festival together. "We went to the [Fire Island] Dance festival last year, and it got us thinking about why there isn't more for artists and theater on the island," explains Cahill. "This community is full of talented, creative people who are interested in the arts, and we wanted to give them something completely over-the-top and different to experience, something we could do year after year."
Cahill - who spent 10 years as a performer in the Broadway and regional theater world - will direct the show, a rendition of a piece commissioned for Marie Antoinette and last performed in Versailles in 1775. This performance will be the show's "New World" premiere.
"We wanted to stage one-act Operas based around contemporary themes," Cahill explains. "We adapted this particular story to relate to the Pines audience. The arias will be sung in the original French, while the play is in 'American.' There is a troupe of half-deer/half-human bouffant satyrs representing the spirit of Fire Island who will help tell the story through pantomime and movement. The young female protagonist has been rewritten as a beautiful young man, and there is a twisted love-triangle between him and two other men. It is a sexy Opera for sure, and demonstrates that even traditional love stories are adaptable and timeless."
The music will be conducted by Bradley Moore. Moore recently performed with Renée Fleming and Susan Graham at Carnegie Hall and on a national tour. His other credits include conducting Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera Colorado, and work as a conductor and coach at the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Opéra National de Paris, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Los Angeles Opera, among others.
The stars of the show include a varied cast of acclaimed theater and Opera performers, including David Pittsinger (one of the few singers to perform at The Met, City Opera, and on Broadway in South Pacific in the same season); Amy Justman (starred in Company on Broadway, and most recently played "Clara" in the Classic Stage Company's production of Passion), Matthew Morris (New York City Opera, La Perichole), and Will Ferguson (American Premiere of The Tempest at Santa Fe Opera). Their costumes will be designed by Dustin Cross (Zelda at the Oasis; Cougar the Musical).
Cahill enlisted the artistic talents of Charles Mary Kubricht for the set design. Kubricht - whose credits include being commissioned by New York City for a widely acclaimed installation on the Highline - will take the opportunity to repurpose materials from around the island, particularly items like driftwood and branches from trees damaged in Hurricane Sandy. "Let's make this about the rebirth of the island by taking dead objects and making something beautiful," she muses.
Kubricht will use these found items to create the production's centerpiece, a "magic tree" which will be underlit in the center of the dance floor. The Pavilion's famed disco ball will be replaced by a similar-but-totally-unique construction: a sculptural "post-modern disco-ball" made of woven yarn, broken glass, and broken mirrors, all representative of the breaking of windows that occurred during the Hurricane.
Part of the proceeds from the festival will go to the Sea Shore Defense Fund, an emergency funding mechanism of FIPPOA (Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association) that allows for immediate action when catastrophe faces Fire Island Pines' most valuable asset-its incomparable beaches.
The Pines will be alive with the sound of Opera throughout the weekend with several other "pop-up" performances, including classical music on the boardwalks, and a Friday evening event for VIP ticket-holders called "Bon Appetit." This charming, 18-minute performance is an operatic rendition of an actual broadcast of Julia Child baking a chocolate cake. It will be performed by Jamie Barton, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, and the cake will be baked live from Julia Child's actual recipe by Lauren Gockley. Gockley, whose father is the General Manager of the San Francisco Opera, was trained as a chocolatier at Valhrona in France before starting her own codachocolate.com company.
"We couldn't be happier to welcome the Fire Island Opera Festival to our community," shares Tony Fornabaio, Entertainment Director for Fire Island Pines Ventures. "This summer is about reclaiming the creative process and carefree joy upon which the island was built. We are dedicated to providing new and unique experiential programming, and this festival is a fabulous example."
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit: http://fireislandopera.org/