This Mother’s Day, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota is offering the present of a two-century-old art form.
Mother’s Day is a hard holiday for which to plan. The person you’re celebrating is responsible for your very existence, and no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to properly thank her for giving you life.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. This year, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota wants you to celebrate with “An Afternoon of Operetta,” a concert featuring both vocal and instrumental soloists with several Choral Artists of Sarasota singers who are ready to show what this light, fun genre of music is all about.
“This music is timeless,” says soloist Emily Martin. “It’s not as dated as people think, and it’s so relatable … super accessible to all ages even if they don’t understand all the words.”
For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this two-century-old genre, operetta is a lighthearted, humorous version of opera that utilizes word play and less heavy subject matters than traditional opera (i.e. “Pirates of Penzance”). This concert will highlight two of the genre’s most impactful composers and its single most iconic duo: Franz von Suppe, Jacques Offenbach and Gilbert and Sullivan (W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan).
Martin, a freelance soprano vocalist based in central Pennsylvania, has performed in productions with Opera Nevada, Skylight Music Theater and Chautauqua, Santa Fe and Palm Beach Operas. Although she loves the staged operas these companies produce, she’s looking forward to taking a break from working on a single production for several months at a time.
“It’s just fun,” she says. “As a soprano I don’t get very many options to just have fun on stage and laugh and sing repertoire that is really enjoyable, honestly, so this is definitely a really fun break from doing what I call ‘the women that die on stage all the time.’”
Martin says she’s also excited about this concert because she gets to sing the song of a character she performed several years ago — Mable in “Pirates of Penzance.” She spent four years singing with Ohio Light Opera, one of the few professional operetta companies in the U.S., so Martin is no stranger to the genre and loves its accessibility.
“I enjoy the connection to the audience,” Martin says. “Sometimes when you’re singing in a foreign language it’s hard to have that immediate connection, but with operetta it’s so easy.”
However, dropping in and performing a one-night-only concert with a group of musicians and fellow vocalists she’s never met brings about its own challenges.
“This is something we do regularly but it’s always a bit of a challenge to make sure everyone is happy and having a good time,” she says. “You want to be as prepared and personable as possible.”
Soloist Garrett Obrycki, who was a Sarasota Opera studio artist (with roles in “The Magic Flute” and “The Barber of Seville”) this season, agrees.
He flies into Sarasota from his home city of Philadelphia on May 9 and the concert is May 12, so there are only a couple days to put all the pieces together. Although it’s never easy, he says people in the music industry are used to preparing on their own then jumping into a fast-tracked rehearsal process when the group is finally in the same room.
Obrycki hasn’t performed operetta since his early 20s, and like Martin, he’s happy to have the opportunity to switch gears and jump into music of a bubbly, easygoing nature (especially unlike the last opera he sang in, which was about a man on death row).
“It’s so goofy, so it gives singers the freedom to come out of their shell,” he says of operetta. “Opera can be so serious because of the storyline … this is fun and a lot different than what I’ve been doing.”
Obrycki notes that operetta is unique in that there’s somewhat of an improvisation element to it when performers have the ability to interact with the audience directly. When done well, it’s hysterical.
So, what is it about an operetta concert that works well for Mother’s Day? Obrycki, whose own mother will be in the audience at the performance, thinks they make a perfect pair.
“I know the audiences fairly well in Sarasota and I know they’ll be happy to listen to this — especially on Mother’s Day,” Obrycki says. “It’s just a cool pairing … this is a fun way to make a whole day out of it, and you’ll laugh the whole time.
“They’ll be able to experience a very specific genre that might not always be available (in Sarasota),” adds Martin.