A Waltz Through Folly

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Stephen Sondheim and Isaac Mizrahi explore midsummer misunderstandings to create a memorable musical tale

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In the northern regions of Scandinavia during the summer solstice, the sun does not set for days at a time. A diffused twilight illuminates midsummer festivals and raucous social revelries. Against this beautiful backdrop in turn-of-the-century Sweden, A Little Night Music celebrates the romantic foibles of Desiree Armfeldt and her weekend guests at her country estate over one eventful extended sunset.

Composer Stephen Sondheim “always wanted to do a musical that dealt with love and mismatched partners…love and foolishness.” He found his inspiration in Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. Book-writer Hugh Wheeler linked Bergman’s elegant script to a sweetened lyricism and Sondheim emulated comic operettas by setting the libretto to variants of three-quarter time – creating an evening of music entirely in waltz meter. The musical opened on Broadway in 1973 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical that same year.

The production of A Little Night Music appearing at Des Moines Metro Opera this summer features scenery, costumes and props designed by acclaimed fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. His unique vision for this production echoes Sondheim’s conception of the film and promises to be a stunning evening in the theatre.

Mizrahi likened his vision to another well-known summer tale: “The inspiration for this production came from the similarity of its title to that of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For years I wanted to present A Little Night Music like Shakespeare’s farce with music, with misguided lovers running through the forest on one enchanted summer night. In this case the sun never sets, and the action is manipulated by Swedish fairies who summon vagrant players living in the forest to tell the stories of Fredrik and Desiree and the other pairs of lovers. It’s almost impossible to ignore the Shakespearean undertones of the piece, and in this production I decided to go all the way and present the whole show in the manner of Pyramus and Thisbe, the play-within-the-play given by the mechanicals in Midsummer. The never-setting sun and the classic farce-like quality lend it the tone of, say, Brigadoon, appearing like magic as the story tells itself over and over in that enchanted spot in the forest.”

MEET THE CAST!

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Kelly Kaduce, Desiree Armfeldt

Since her successful DMMO debut as Alice Ford in last season’s Falstaff, Ms. Kaduce has appeared as Nedda in Pagliacci with Virginia Opera, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro with the Bard Festival and Liù in Turandot at The Atlanta Opera. Next season she returns to Minnesota Opera for the title role in Massenet’s Thaïs and Boston LYric Opera for The Threepennny Opera. Her return to DMMO marks a role debut and an opportunity to share the stage with husband Lee Gregory!

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Troy Cook, Fredrik Egerman

Recent performances for Mr. Cook include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for Washington National Opera, Ford in Falstaff with the San Diego Opera and Silent Night with the Atlanta Opera. No stranger to musical theatre, he has appeared as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music and Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat with Central City Opera in Colorado. Next season he apears in the highly anticipated world premiere of Elizabeth Cree at Opera Philadelphia.

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Lauren Snouffer, Anne Egerman

Recognized for performances spanning a range of composer from Monteverdi to György Ligeti, Ms. Snouffer expands her repertory even further this summer in the role of Anne Egerman. Recent appearances include Pamina in The Magic Flute and Adèle in Le Comte Ory at Seattle Opera and Carrie in Carousel at Houston Grand Opera. Next season she appears in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at Opera Philadelphia.

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Lee Gregory, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm

Mr. Gregory’s recent performances include Silvio in Pagliacci with Virginia Opera and the Narrator in the world premiere of Stewart Copeland’s The Invention of Morel with Chicago Opera Theatre. Also this season he appears in As One by Laura Kaminsky at Long Beach Opera. Mr. Gregory appeared as Carl-Magnus when Isaac Mizrahi’s production of A Little Night Music originated at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

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Elise Quagliata, Charlotte Malcom

DMMO audiences remember Ms. Quagliata in one of her signature roles, Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking from 2014. The mezzo-soprano recently revisited the role for Pensacola Opera in that year that has also seen her in the title role of Carmen with Utah Opera and New York City Opera on tour in Asia, and a critically acclaimed performance with New York City Opera in a new work, Hopper’s Wife. Also this season at DMMO, Ms. Quagliata takes on the title role in Maria de Buenos Aires.  

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Joyce Castle, Madame Armfeldt

Ms. Castle, a DMMO favorite, returns to add the role of Madame Armfeldt to her mainstage appearances, which include Klytemnästra in Elektra and the Grandmother in Jenufa. Besides appearing as Madame Armfeldt at Houston Grand Opera, her wide-ranging performances of recent seasons have included Madame de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites in Chicago and Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus at Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

 

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