The composers’ names are big, but not the scale in two virtual valentines the Baylor Opera Theater performs this weekend.
In the latest offerings of a COVID-19 altered season, Baylor will stage Mozart’s “Bastien und Bastienne” on Friday and Jacques Offenbach’s “Le marriage aux lanternes” on Saturday, both streamed online through baylor.edu/music/live.
With school and community COVID-19 protocols limiting ensemble size, rehearsals, orchestras and live audiences, the theater has shifted its season to smaller works presented to online viewers. COVID-19 precautions, in fact, postponed the theater’s first spring semester work “Bon Appetit!” from its original Jan. 29 date.
Both works this weekend are short, simple romances with singable melodies, said opera theater director Jen Stephenson, light fare presented as a counterpoint to “these complicated times.”
“Bastien und Bastienne” is Mozart’s first opera, written when he was 12 years old — “a very talented 12-year-old,” Stephenson observed. The 1768 work concerns a young woman, Bastienne (Halle Hill) who fears her lover Bastien (Corbin King) is more interested in another woman than her. An eccentric Colas (Evan Welliver), who some villagers consider a magician, advises her to play hard to get while he persuades Bastien, who fears she is leaving him, that he has a magic spell that will restore her affection. The spell is fake, of course, but manages to do the trick.
Offenbach’s “Le mariage aux lanternes” (“The Wedding by Lantern Light”), which debuted in 1857, is one of 98 operettas the French composer wrote in his career. The story follows peasant Guillot (Kyle Felkins), who has fallen for Denise (Stephenson), sent to live on his farm by her uncle and his godfather Mathurin.
He thinks she’s smitten with the town playboy, while she, attracted to Guillot, mistakes his awkwardness as indifference. Both ask Mathurin for advice and he tells each they’ll find their treasure under a large tree. Fanchette (Hannah Hyden) and Catherine (Amy Pressman) overhear Guillot reading Mathurin’s letter and, imagining a buried treasure, scheme individually to marry Guillot.
Upon arriving at the tree in question, the two young lovers discover the other is, of course, the treasure they desire.
Both short operas are sung in their original language, German for “Bastien” and French for “Le mariage,” with spoken dialogue in English. Jeffrey Peterson, associate professor and opera theater music director, will conduct both productions with stage direction by Stephenson. Tevae Shoels will direct “Bastien.” Maggie Stith will provide the piano accompaniment for “Bastien” and Mario Barbosa for “Le mariage.”
The operas will be performed live in Baylor’s black box theater and streamed online, “Bastien” at 7 p.m. Friday and “Le marriage” at 3 p.m. Saturday. Both productions are free and will be archived for later viewing on YouTube, Stephenson said.