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La Gazetta

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Gioachino Rossini wrote 39  operas by the time he was 40. Perhaps exhausted by his compositional pace, the composer retired at the peak of his powers and popularity. His undisputed masterpiece, The Barber of Seville has remained a staple in the opera house over the intervening centuries, but few of his other operas come anywhere near Barber’s acclaim.

A true curiosity in Rossini’s oeuvre is La Gazzetta (The Newspaper), an opera-buffo written in between Barber and his second most popular comic opera, La Cenerentola (Cinderella). For some reason, the opera was essentially forgotten for well over a century.

Always on the quest for something original, the intrepid Pacific Opera Project (POP) is presenting a production of La Gazzetta. They state that it’s the second production in the US, and I have no reason to doubt their claim. This will certainly be a new Rossini opera to most audiences.

Of course, even a new Rossini opera will have some familiar bits. Because of the speed at which he had to compose, Rossini was an inveterate borrower of his own tunes. La Gazzetta’s overture would be repurposed for Cenerentola, and melodies from Barber make an occasional appearance in the Gazzetta score. The majority of the music is original, however,  and overflowing with Rossini’s unique brand of fizzy fun.

The convoluted storyline contains a few light satiric jabs, but is mostly a patently ridiculous affair designed for maximum laughs. Don Pomponio (E. Scott Levin) is a Neopolitan businessman who arrives in Paris to find a husband for his daughter, Lisetta (Rachel Policar). Deciding that he’ll manage this with modern efficiency, Pomponio places an ad for potential husbands in the newspaper. Anselmo (Phil Meyer) is also husband-hunting for his daughter Doralice ( Molly Clementz).

The libretto’s Commedia roots dictate that both daughters are strong-willed, crafty, and determined to choose their own bridegrooms. This results in numerous misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and even the appearance of an incongruously combative group of Quakers. (Don’t ask.)

Artistic Director Josh Shaw updates the action to the early 1960’s which suits the material nicely. Shaw also designed the interestingly L-shaped stage which offers just enough scenery to suggest a posh hotel lobby and bar. More importantly, these locations offer the principals numerous playgrounds. Shaw has also adapted the libretto with an effective use of humorous anachronisms in his supertitles.

Shaw’s cast all throw themselves into the comic anarchy with abandon. Levin is a POP veteran, and his hilariously pompous Pomponio owns the stage whenever he enters. Kyle Patterson’s Alberto, one of the daughter-approved suitors, reveals a  sweet and supple bel canto tenor along with a keen sense of fun. Policar convinces as a spoiled rich girl and handles Rossini’s stratospheric vocal challenges with ease.

Opera lovers will thrill to see this rarity on stage, but general audiences will find much to charm them in POP’s delightful La Gazzetta. And, for those who can’t make it to Highland Park, the company will livestream the final performance on their FaceBook page.

Ebell Club of Highland Park    June 28 – July 7, 2018



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.