The "operetta" was called The Vagabond Princess and was not an actual operetta. Instead it was a way of displaying two dozen songs using a made-up operetta plot. What surprised me, however, was that the music wasn't really operetta music. Probably 2/3 or or more of the selections were Broadway songs from shows produced between about 1900 and 1920. The rest of the selections were English translations of European operettas by Lehar, Kalmann, or were from American operettas by Romberg, Friml, Herbert. There was a lot of music in the program by Jerome Kern which was appropriate because he had interpolated a lot of his songs into operettas. There also was a number of songs by Irving Berlin which were performed well here but which really didn't fit the theme of the program.
Instead of the small orchestra or combo which the In-Series usually uses there was just a grand piano and a pianist who played so well that you didn't notice him - which is maybe the biggest compliment you can give to an accompanist. There was minimal staging and very little lighting effects but the actors/singers, at least the women, were in costume. The men wore evening dress and, depending upon what was occurring in the plot, would put on a sort of loose and short dalmatic to show their royal or other status. The women, however, wore costumes and hats and dresses from the pre-World War 1 period. I did notice that all the women had on usually high-heeled shoes. I don't know whether that was the fashion in 1912 or whether the actresses just wore the heels because they were all short and wanted to look taller on the stage .
All four female singers and two of the three male singers were outstanding. I always enjoy this kind of show because you hear a human voice directly not amplified and distorted by electronics. The singer performing the Prince had a very good voice but had a really limited and hammy acting style. I wasn't able to figure out if he was a poor actor or if he had been purposely directed to act in that style. The one singer who I did not care for was the one playing the King. The program notes said he came from the District of Columbia and had been awarded a scholarship in music to CU or the University of Maryland. But both when he spoke and when he sang it was in a West Indies accent that had no apparent connection to anything in the plot. He also seemed to be semi-asleep when he was singing and not all there. All the female singers were better than good.
The performance reminded me of Germany. Both because it was an unusual subject matter performed well for a small audience .... and because I couldn't understand a lot of it. I often feel bad when I'm in Germany listening to live music because there is so much of the words that I miss. I keep forgetting that it isn't a matter of language but a matter of the voice that is singing the song that makes the words difficult to understand. Male singers, tenors, basses, baritones, are easy to understand in German as well as in English. Sopranos, however, are hard to understand whether they're singing in English or German - as was the case last night.
At the beginning of the show the producer made an announcement that probably 60% of the songs would be unfamiliar to almost everyone and she was right. Every once awhile it was a jolt when one of the songs were sung that didn't fit (at least in my mind) into an operetta. One of the first jolts was "they didn't believe me" and even more so "a pretty girl is like a melody". Probably the best performed song of the night was a true operetta song "sweethearts". The finale was the whole cast singing "look for the silver lining", which certainly isn't from an operetta but which was written by Kern and he does writes in an operetta style.
There was only one down note in the whole evening: only 60 percent of the theater was filled -- and this isn't a big theater. If the audience doesn't start growing soon I'm afraid the whole program of operetta will be abandoned.