Gilbert & Sullivan prepare for “Princess Ida”

The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company rehearses its production of the operetta “Princess Ida,” Sunday, Feb. 7, at the University of Chicago facilities work center, 5608 S. Stony Island Ave.   Marc Monaghan
The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company rehearses its production of the operetta “Princess Ida,” Sunday, Feb. 7, at the University of Chicago facilities work center, 5608 S. Stony Island Ave.

Marc Monaghan

By ALLISON MATYUS
Staff Writer

An exciting rendition of performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s medieval fairytale “Princess Ida” comes to Mandel Hall in March.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company will put on three shows by Stage Director, Shane Valenzi, and Music Director, Matthew Sheppard. Valenzi, who is in his second year of directing at the company, said that audiences can expect the usual humorous Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with a hint of mocking at societal norms.

Based on an epic poem and written in blank verse, “Princess Ida” is about a women’s university infiltrated by men disguised as women and the gender politics that play into that. Valenzi was left with the task of presenting the play as close as possible to its original script, but keeping in mind a 2016 audience instead of an 1880’s one.

“The challenge is to present this work for modern audiences in a way that is enjoyable to everyone that doesn’t end up offending or putting off the audience, because that’s the opposite of what a light-hearted operetta is supposed to do,” Valenzi said.

“Princess Ida” pokes at feminism, women’s education and Darwinism, things society wouldn’t consider making fun of in this modern day and age, but they were the hot topics when Gilbert and Sullivan wrote the play in 1884.
To lighten the mood on these topics, Valenzi took to writing his own version of the ending.

“[The ending] is a celebration of Ida’s world view,” Valenzi said. “She expands her power and consolidates it in a way where it is celebrated. It’s still the classical 11th hour Gilbert and Sullivan ending where everything gets tied up with a neat little bow.”

The three dozen-person cast apart of the production have been rehearsing five days a week for eight weeks. Valenzi said the cast is an eclectic group of people mixed with professional opera singers, Gilbert and Sullivan Company veterans as well as a couple of University of Chicago students.
The University Chamber Orchestra, comprised of all students, is also a part of the production.

Valenzi, who has directed several Gilbert and Sullivan pieces before, said that each one is just as enjoyable as the one before.

“A well-done Gilbert and Sullivan production is the most fun you can have in the rehearsal process,” he said. “Every show is creating its own topsy-turvy world…it is totally a unique art form.”

The performances of “Princess Ida” will be at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., March 11 through the 13. For ticket information, visit http://ticketsweb.uchicago.edu/shows/princess%20ida/info.

a.matyus@hpherald.com