Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

An Afternoon of OperettaArtist Series Concerts of Sarasota
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Quiet No More and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Photo Courtesy Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota
Every year, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota offers a Mother's Day musical treat, a themed concert. It is typically the last event of Artist Series' season, and this year with an extra tinge of sadness as John Fisher steps down as managing director (Marcy Miller will step into those shoes). In years past we have had tributes to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kurt Weill, and many more, all programmed by Dr. Joseph Holt. This year, Dr. Holt returns to the world of operetta, an area he has visited before. He built a program around two 200th anniversaries, Franz von Suppé and Jacques Offenbach were both born 1819, and also featuring Gilbert and Sullivan, which is for me is a paradox, a most ingenious paradox.

The program opened with four selections from von Suppé, now know almost exclusively for his plethora of concert-worthy overtures. Dr. Holt at the piano and a string quartet of first chair players from The Sarasota Orchestra gave us the well known "Poet and Peasant Overture." I'm sure many in the audience recognized several of its themes from their frequent use in 1930s and '40s cartoons. Next came a duet from Boccaccio, "Mia bella Fiorentino" for soprano and mezzo. Emily Martin, soprano, and Stacey Rishoi, mezzo soprano, did the honors. From an even less well known operetta, Donna Juanita, came "They Require Not Words," duet for soprano and tenor, performed by Ms. Martin and Mark Lubas, tenor, and "When I Was Young" by Ms. Rishoi. Despite the English titles, they were sung in Italian. English translations were available projected behind the artists. My impression of the vocal selections is that von Suppé was not one of the great operetta composers, mostly gone from the repertoire for a good reason.

Next the program turned to one of my favorite composers, Offenbach. Two selections from his only opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, the doll's aria ("Les oiseaux dans la charmille") by Ms. Martin and the barcarolle ("Belle nuit") by Ms. Martin and Ms. Rishoi. The act ended with the string quartet returning to the stage and Choral Artists of Sarasota backing up the soloists, plus Luis González and Garret Obrycki, both baritones, for the finale of act three of Orpheus in the Underworld, ending with "The Infernal Gallop," which everyone in the audience recognized as "The Can-Can."

The second half consisted of extended excerpts from The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan's second full length operetta, behind H.M.S. Pinafore. Mr. Lubas was our hero, Fredric, Ms. Martin his love interest Mabel, Ms. Rishoi played Ruth, Mr. González portrayed The Pirate King and Sargent of Police, and Mr. Obrycki was Major-General Stanley. Having grown up on Gilbert and Sullivan via first class recordings and some quite decent full productions, including the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company on tour, I wished for more than Artists Series Concerts could deliver, but compared to a couple of productions I've seen of this piece over the past four or five years, this was still a huge step up. Mr. Obrycki's rendition of the patter song of all patter songs, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General," was sung with far more voice than I have ever heard before, all without losing much in terms of diction. I believe the audience was able to understand 60% or more of the tongue-twisting lyrics ("and whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore ..."). Bravo!

The program lists next year's events for the first time. I see lots of Beethoven to mark his 250th birthday, a concert called "Swing Harmony" with three fine singers to bring in the holiday season on December 21 and 22, "Piano Grande IV - The Holiday Edition" on December 8, "40's Big Band" - Glenn Miller/Tex Beneke on June 4, and other interesting events. In a week or so the schedule should become available on their website.

So another year, another Mother's Day spent in the wonderful company of Dr. Holt and Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota. Offenbach and Gilbert and Sullivan, two of my favorites with a soupçon of von Suppé, not well known to me—a delightful way to spend the afternoon.

An Afternoon of Operetta was presented May 12, 2019, by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For more information, please visit

Emily Martin: soprano
Stacey Rishoi: Mezzo Soprano
Mark Lubas: tenor
Luis González: baritone
Garrett Obrycki: baritone

The Choral Artists of Sarasota, under the direction of Joseph Holt

String Quartet:
Daniel Jordan: violin
Samantha Bennett: violin
Steven Laraia: viola
Natalie Helm: cello