The month of June is gliding into 2021 with a choral entrance provided by Mission Opera, beginning with the performances of “Le 66” at Santa Clarita United Methodist Church for two weekends beginning June 5.
“Le 66” is a French comedic operetta written in 1856 by composer Jacques Offenbach. The story focuses on two lost traveling German musicians who encounter a peddler on the road. This peddler proceeds to sell them a lottery ticket featuring the winning number 66. Their luck turns as they engage in some unusual circumstances before fate finally snaps them back to the here and now.
“We’re now getting back into live theater and it’s a little tricky since now we have to amplify [worry about sound and microphone], which is usually something opera singers don’t usually use,” said Dr. Joshua R. Wentz, president of Mission Opera’s board of directors. “Being outside, we’re going to need an audio engineer and other tech people we don’t normally have.”
“Le 66” is set to be performed outdoors in the private parking lot of the church in its original French libretto with English dialogue on Saturdays (June 5 and 12), as well as in a full English translation on Sundays (June 6 and 13). Each show starts at 6 p.m.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 meant Wentz had to work to adjust the format of their production switching to an online only performance format for their last three shows.
“Most people couldn’t figure out how to do one show and decided to wait until they could get back in the theater, but we did three digital Hollywood-ized shows which completely changed how we operate and do business,” he said.
With the prospect of their first live show since the pandemic began, Wentz and his company faced a new series of challenges adjusting to a now live outdoor performance format, namely the aforementioned amplification of the show’s performers. The shows have also been arranged to abide by social distancing guidelines. “We’ve been really serious about COVID and safety, we even have a COVID compliance officer just to make sure everyone feels safe and adhering to the law,” Wentz said. For additional safety measures, Mission Opera’s upcoming shows plan to have only three singers maximum on stage at all times.
Mission Opera is a nonprofit organization that works “to produce high-quality, accessible opera and musical theater,” as well as provide members of the community the opportunity to participate in said production either as actors or stage hands, according to their website. The organization’s hope is that through the audiences’ enjoyment of their productions, they help to give a deeper appreciation for opera as well as musical theater. Prior operatic shows include “Cosi fan tutte” in May 2019, among several others.
“I started bringing opera to Santa Clarita before we were even a nonprofit in 2018,” Wentz said. “And since then we’ve had over eight shows.”
In addition to performers, Mission Opera is seeking musicians to play in their orchestra this fall since the pandemic closed down other local orchestras and created a vacuum, according to Wentz.
“So all of a sudden, there isn’t any working orchestra around so we’re looking for former members as well as other community musicians who love to play their instruments,” he said.
Wentz added that Mission Opera is working with the city’s volunteer program to find people interested in working the box office and selling concessions.
“Whatever the case is, we’re always looking for volunteers to help advance our nonprofit and we couldn’t do it without volunteers, really,” he said.
As a baritone, Wentz has performed at the national level in multiple states throughout the United States, and on an international level by performing in nine countries.
Wentz has previously performed at the Cleveland Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Carolina, Dayton Opera (Ohio), Harrower Opera, Festival Internaccional d’Opera Americas, Rome Festival Opera, Darmstadt Festspiel, as well various other musical theater venues. In addition to his history as a performer, Wentz is also an associate professor of music at Los Angeles Mission College.
Those interested in donating can visit their website to find further information on Mission Opera’s history and upcoming shows. Mission Opera hosts auditions two to three times a year. Stay up to date on news from the Mission Opera by following their social media on Facebook and Instagram.
General admission tickets for the live show are $20 and can be purchased at www.missionopera.com or https://le66.brownpapertickets.com/. Student and Senior tickets available for $15 with ID at the box office. Concessions and merchandise will be sold before the show and during intermission. Tickets to the streaming show are $4.99 and sold through Facebook for the June 13 livestream.
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