Light Opera of New Jersey’s 20th year will celebrate with The Gondoliers

Light Opera of New Jersey (LONJ) celebrates their 20th anniversary with Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular “The Gondoliers, or The King of Barataria”. Performances will be two weekends in October in Basking Ridge. October 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 at 8 p.m. and Oct.12 at 2 p.m.

For the past twenty years, LONJ has presented “September Song” an annual fundraiser for St. Mark’s Church music program, featuring a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. This year the celebration production is in October and the focus is the popular G&S show, The Gondoliers.

The Gondoliers is one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s great successes. The story centers around two young Venetian gondolieri, Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, who find that one is actually heir to the throne of Barataria. Lovely Venetian maidens have their hearts set on these two and marriages ensue with the charming Tessa and Gianetta. Complications begin to form when the fame-seeking Duke & Duchess of Plaza-Toro appear. Their daughter, Casilda, was wedded as a baby to the soon-to-be king. Problem is, no one can figure out which man is the right one. Don Alhambra, The Grand Inquisitor, admits to a mix up when he brought the infant prince to Venice. He summons the only person who can identify the heir, the nurse Inez. In classic G&S style, a series of twists and turns plays out to a delightful ending that has a few surprises.

Bill Corson, Executive Producer and Director, and Lauran Corson, Artistic Director are the founders of Light Opera of New Jersey. Most recently, they presented the critically acclaimed show Thoroughly Modern Millie in the Bernards Township Plays in the Park series.   For The Gondoliers, they’ve assembled a cast of outstanding performers, many of whom have been with the company from its inception as Ridge Light Opera.

The romantic gondolier Giuseppe is baritone John Andrew Fernandez, who recently performed in Noli Me Tangere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The gondolier who is heir- to the-throne is performed on alternate evenings by tenors Alex Corson, who was recently seen with the NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of The Pirates of Penzance and was featured as Tony in West Side Story at the Bickford Theater in Morristown and Benjamin Krumreig who has performed with the Ohio Light Opera and Crested Butte Music Festival.  Tenor David Perper plays theattendant Luiz (Casilda’s true love) and has performed from Israel to the Netherlands and across the U.S. and Canada. William Remmers, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, received the Best Supporting Actor award at the 21st International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in England this summer. Ryan Allen, performing Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor, has performed dozens of G&S roles and has sung at the Met and throughout the country.

The lovely Venetian contadine, Gianetta, is played by Elena Bird who was seen in the LONJ production of ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ this summer and has received awards from Schubert Club International Voice competition and the Young Artist Award from the Anchorage Festival of Music. Samantha Dango is Gianetta on alternate performances. She performed with LONJ in The Magic Flute this spring, and has sung with the New Jersey State Opera, the New York Lyric Opera Company and the Princeton Festival. Kathleen Shelton plays Tessa, the Venetian contadine who marries the young Giuseppe. This summer Kathleen participated as a fellow in the CoOPERAtive summer program in Princeton, and has performed with the Mississippi Opera.  Lyssandra Stephenson is Casilda,(Marco’s secret wife). She most recently received the Rising Star Award from the Continuo Arts Foundation and performed in The Marriage of Figaro with the Manhattan Opera Studio. Hanne Dollase is the Duchess of Plaza Toro has performed throughout North America and Europe and was in The Magic Flute with Light Opera of New Jersey this Spring.

The outstanding cast also includes Sopranos: Emma Peterson, Laura DeFelice, Paige Porter, Susanna Su, and Sophia Donelan, and Altos: Katerina Nowik, Daveda Browne and Donna Lee Donelan. Tenors include Josh Berg, Mike Baruffi and Jack Broderick, along with Baritones Frank Skokan, Changkuo Hsieh, Tom Donelan and Luke Chiafullo and Bass John Lamb.

The Gondoliers is directed by Bill Corson and William Remmers with Assistant Director Joanna Hoty Russell. Lois Buesser is the pianist extrordinaire for this production.

The Gondoliers is an apt tribute to G&S and to the Light Opera of New Jersey. The singing, acting, staging and costuming come together to delight audiences of all ages.

Performances are over 2 weekends in October: evenings at 8 p.m., October 10,11,16,17, 18, and matinee at 2 p.m. October 12. Tickets are priced at $20, $25 and $30.

A special 20th Anniversary celebration of Light Opera of New Jersey, with Dinner and the Show, will be held on Saturday evening the 18th. Tickets for the dinner that evening will be $25.

Location: St Mark’s Church, 140 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge, NJ 07920. Tickets are available online at www.lonj.org or by calling 908-903-0702