Social media play lead roles in Brava! Opera's musical comedy

Baritone Jose Rubio plays Ben and soprano Emma McNairy plays Lucy in Brava! Opera's production of "The Telephone."Illustration by Bob Pennell

Do you chat, text or tweet? Then you have a lot in common with Lucy, a chatty young lady whose cellphone obsession may dash her dreams of marriage to her boyfriend Ben. Ben wants desperately to propose, but Lucy's cellphone keeps ringing ... and Lucy keeps talking.

Brava! Opera Theater weaves modern technology — iPhones, Facebook, Twitter — into all aspects of Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Telephone." Artistic Director Willene Gunn created a projection system that allows the audience to view the texts, status updates and tweets.

If you go

What: "The Telephone" and "The Old Maid and the Thief"

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3

Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent

Tickets: $25, $10 for students

Call: 541-535-5250 or see www.camelotheatre.org

"Menotti would approve," Gunn states in a news release. "He had a wonderful sense of humor and would want the production to relate to everyone."

Menotti directed Gunn in his 1976 Portland Opera production of "The Consul." This full-length work won the New York Drama Critics Circle award for best musical play in 1954 and a Pulitzer Prize. Menotti's best-known work is the Christmas classic, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," composed in 1951.

"We are staying true to his legacy," Gunn says. "This is a theatrical production with great singing and great acting. That is what Menotti would have wanted."

Coupled with "The Telephone" is another one-act comedy by Menotti, "The Old Maid and the Thief." Performances are set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent.

Baritone Josť Rubio plays Ben, who refuses to let technology come between himself and love. Thus, humorous events are set in motion to win Lucy, played by soprano Emma McNairy, and her hand.

Rubio is based in Cincinnati, where he performs regularly for the Cincinnati Opera. He also performs in opera houses in Chicago, New York City and around the country. He is an undergraduate of University of Washington in Seattle, and he earned his artist diploma from Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music.

McNairy is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Originally from Austin, Texas, she'll perform from August through December at Voocal Lab in the Netherlands.

Costumes are contemporary for "The Telephone." This one-act comedy is set in Lucy's apartment, where she practices advanced yoga and stays in touch with friends via technology while the dejected Ben looks on.

"The Old Maid and the Thief" is a tale of morals and womanly power set in the '40s in small-town America.

Miss Todd, played by mezzo-soprano Beth Bradford, is a lonely spinster who lives vicariously by reading romance magazines that belong to her young housemaid, Laeticia, played by McNairy. One fateful day, fantasy becomes reality for maid and matron when the handsome, charming and free-spirited Bob, played by Rubio, comes knocking for a free lunch.

"Miss Todd, Laeticia and Bob are three-dimensional people with deep desires that spur drastic actions," Gunn says. "This piece appears to be about love, but it is more about freedom and wanting to feel young again. Bob seeks freedom from the confines of society, Laeticia wants freedom from routine and Miss Todd desires freedom from time's heavy hand."

The love-struck Miss Todd and Laeticia invite Bob in and go to great lengths to tame the independent vagabond. "The Old Maid" also features soprano Ellie Holt-Murray as Miss Pinkerton, the gossipy old maid who lives next door.

The one-act operas will be sung in English. Laurie Anne Hunter, music director and pianist, will lead violinist Arlene Taylor, cellist Michael Palzewicz, clarinetist Lori Calhoun and saxophonist Daryl Fjeldheim in accompaniment.

"This is not your standard opera experience," Gunn adds. "This is more like musical theater with modern costumes and settings. There is even dancing ... to music on an iPod, that is."

Tickets cost $25, $10 for students, and may be purchased at www.camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250. See www.bravaopera.com.


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