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The theater, a place where as we sit in the darkness and fall in love, we find out more about ourselves in the process of taking it all in. Opening the summer season with the musical Brigadoon, The Ohio Light Opera is falling in love right off the bat this season. Dancing through the heather on the hill, the audience will laugh and smile listening to the lyrics of one of Lerner and Lowe's most beloved musicals. The inhabitants of a hidden, unmapped village in Scotland lead us on the chase for romance and discovery through time, as we ask ourselves, would we return to the world we know or stay in the Highlands?
Other offerings from The Ohio Light Opera this season include Can-Can, One Touch of Venus, Frederike, Oh, Kay!, The Yeomen of the Guard and Ruddigore. Entering into its 37th Summer Season, the company has grown to encompass all forms of the light opera canon. The stage and lighting teams embrace both the historical practices of each work and the resources of having a state-of-the-art theater. Nearly 20,000 patrons each season see productions in The College of Wooster's intimate Freedlander Theatre. Over 100 company members from around the United States are selected each year to become a part of the work.
The theater began as an idea in 1976 when Professor of Speech, Stanley Schutz invited James Stuart's Kent State Light Opera to perform at Freedlander Theatre. Administrative changes at Kent State resulted in the demise of Stuart's company in 1978 and The College of Wooster drafted a proposal to establish a new company at the College. On June 26, 1979 with the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, Ohio Light Opera opened its doors on its first five-week summer season.
Every actor, every part, every piece in the orchestra feels an intense pride in participating in this rich history year after year. While The Ohio Light Opera began with solo piano accompaniment, a unit set that could shield the piano, and a repertoire of strictly Gilbert and Sullivan, by its third season, it had become one of few companies to perform all 13 surviving Gilbert and Sullivan shows. In the 90s and into 2000 the company attracted new audiences with musical comedy gems from Rogers and Hammerstein (Carousel, South Pacific, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, The King and I), George Gershwin (Of Thee I Sing; Lady, Be Good!), Jerome Kern (The Cabaret Girl), Cole Porter (Jubilee, Silk Stockings) Rodgers and Hart (A Connecticut Yankee) and others.
OLO associate artistic director Julie Wright Costa, with more than 20 years experience on the OLO stage, works in conjunction with Steven Daigle in overseeing an annual nationwide audition process that attracts hundreds of vocal artists with ambitions to be part of the OLO summer festival. In making their choices, they look for truth in performance and, beyond technical accomplishment, for readiness to alternate between leading roles and service in the chorus. "There is no room for divas," Daigle declares.
Music director J. Lynn Thompson, aided by orchestra personnel manager and 30-year OLO trumpeter John Schuesselin, oversees the orchestral auditions, which draw young professional musicians from this nation's top music schools and programs.
The Ohio Light Opera has achieved an enviable reputation for not only its ambitious repertoire and excellent production values, but also for the efficiency and integrity of its operation. As Company manager/producer from 1983 to 1997, Bonnie Havholm contributed greatly toward laying the foundation for this structure. Laura Neill assumed the position in 1997 and currently, as OLO executive director, has overseen and spearheaded unprecedented growth in the Company, inspired enthusiasm and commitment among its patrons and benefactors, and increased its national and international visibility and recognition.
In 1997, the Ohio Light Opera released its first CD recording: a two-disc set of Victor Herbert's Eileen. No one could have imagined at that time that, after just 15 years, the list of recordings would have grown to 37 CD titles, including many world-premiere complete recordings. No operetta company, and few opera companies, in the world can boast of such a comprehensive recording legacy. Highlights of the series include first-ever recordings with complete dialogue of many Gilbert and Sullivan works; complete recordings of Victor Herbert's six most popular operettas; and the most complete versions available on disc of seven operettas of Emmerich Kálmán.
For the future, artistic director Daigle seeks to sustain the Company's high standards, continue to expand and broaden the repertoire, and reach out to new audiences. With a tradition of excellence buttressed by College of Wooster support, the abundant talents of young professional singers and instrumentalists, creative artistic leadership, and the enthusiasm and generosity of its patrons, The Ohio Light Opera is positioned to ensure that this "summer jewel" will continue to sparkle.
Visit OhioLightOpera.org or call 330-263-2345 for more information on the 2015 Summer Season, the company's "Taking Light Opera Seriously" Symposium in July, or to purchase tickets.