Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center presents 'The Gondoliers'

TARPON SPRINGS

This city of winding bayous is often referred to as the Venice of the South, but in the 1920s it was even more so.

Two 38-foot gondolas were rowed in Spring Bayou according to the book Tarpon Springs: The Early Years by Gertrude Stoughton.

And the beautiful bayou was home to several winter water festivals that featured races and romps, a parade of floats, and operas and plays performed on barges.

Now, in a sparkling salute to that golden era, the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center presents The Gondoliers, a madcap misadventure told through music, song and dance.

The comic opera by librettist William Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan runs this weekend and next.

"It's a good match for us with our local culture and history," said director Jamie Bierchen, who also plays Giuseppe, a principal role.

The plot revolves around Giuseppe and Marco, two gondoliers who are told that one of them is a prince, heir to the throne of Barataria. This person was kidnapped as a baby (after his father turned Methodist) and taken to Venice where he was raised by a drunkard.

The problem is, the man who raised both boys lost track of who was whom.

In the meantime, a young maiden named Casilda travels to Venice with her parents who tell her she was married at birth to the prince.

Now that the king is dead, they are eager to get on with the deal.

Little do they know she loves a lowly attendant to her father, a duke, and the gondoliers have chosen their own brides.

The gondoliers travel to Barataria to rule as joint kings until they sort out who is the rightful heir. Along the way, they try out some interesting concepts like democracy and social equity.

Finally, the nurse who took care of the infant prince is brought in to straighten out the stolen-at-birth mess so the true heir to the throne may reign as king.

It's pure Gilbert and Sullivan with a gondola full of absurdities, parodies and plot twists.

The creative duo collaborated on 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896.

While H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado are perhaps the best known, The Gondoliers is one of the most difficult to sing, said musical director Constantine Grame, who puts on his own masterful performance as pianist for the two-hour show.

"It's tricky because the music is rapid-fire and the songs are filled with tongue-twisters," he said.

No worries there, Tampa Bay's got talent.

The cast of 25 includes singers from a variety of local opera companies.

Despite all the laughs, the comic opera does have a somewhat sad legacy.

"This was Gilbert and Sullivan's last big success together as a team," Bierchen said.

.Fast facts

The Gondoliers, an operetta
by Gilbert and Sullivan

When: Saturday and Sunday and Feb. 12 and 13. Saturday performances at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St.

Tickets: $16, $14 (members), $12 (students).

Info: (727) 942-5605 or visit tarponarts.org.

Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center presents 'The Gondoliers' 02/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 1:14am]

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