Choral group to take Downey Theatre stage

DOWNEY – Are you ready for an afternoon of music and fun on the H.M.S. Pinafore? Chorale Bel Canto, an 80-voice choir based in Whittier, will partner with Pasadena-based Opera A La Carte to bring this classic comic operetta of Gilbert and Sullivan to the stage of the Downey Civic Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m. Chorale Bel Canto, now in its 33rd season, is led by its founder and musical director, Dr. Stephen Gothold.

If you are already a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, you know you’ll be in for a treat. Librettist and stage manager W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan made an extraordinarily successful team, creating wildly popular operettas from the 1870s through the turn of the century. Their productions took England by storm, followed by great success on American shores.

H.M.S. Pinafore, the pair’s first international hit, takes place on a British navy ship of the same name. The plot is silly with serious overtones, a hallmark of Gilbert’s treatment of subjects in his comic operas. His stories were “topsy-turvy”; conventional social order was thwarted and lampooned. Rich men fall for poor lasses and patricians turn out to be humbly born. Gilbert was also famous for referencing well-known personalities of the day in his lyrics, to the delight of audiences and consternation of those mentioned.

The creative plots and lyrics of Gilbert are ably matched by the memorable melodies of Arthur Sullivan, who had a knack for setting copious words and action to lovely and singable melodies that sent audiences home humming.

As ever, there was behind-the-scenes drama. Gilbert and Sullivan had a tumultuous relationship, which complicated their productions. During the writing of H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert suffered terribly from kidney stones. And, after the original investors in the production company for the show were dropped, there followed an ugly scene where the slighted businessmen arranged to steal scenery from the theater to stage their own production! And Sullivan was famous for burning the midnight oil to complete the orchestral overtures prior to opening nights.

In the upcoming performance of H.M.S. Pinafore, solo roles will be sung by costumed actors from Opera A La Carte, a local, professional, touring repertory company. Singers of Chorale Bel Canto will sing the choruses as sailors and young lasses, including melodies you may already know: “I’m Called Little Buttercup,” “He Is an Englishman,” and “I Am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy.” Accompaniment is provided by the Opera A La Carte Orchestra. You’ll leave humming your favorite tunes just as the original audiences did!

Chorale Bel Canto has an exciting four-concert season planned which kicks off with H.M.S. Pinafore. For the holidays, they will present “Christmas in Brass” on Dec. 6 at First Friends Church in Whittier. On March 28, 2015, they present their annual Bach-themed program, also at First Friends Church in Whittier. Their final concert of the 2014-15 season is on May 16, 2015 at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena. It will feature great opera choruses with soloists from the Redlands Opera Theatre, and a performance of “The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore,” a madrigal fable by Gian-Carlo Menotti, a challenging work both musically and philosophically. Joining them will be dancers from Pasadena Civic Ballet to bring the story to life on stage.

The Downey Civic Theatre is located at 8435 Firestone Blvd. in Downey; parking is free. For tickets or information, visit or call (888) 460-9222, or call the theater box office at (562) 861-8211.

Ticket prices are adults $25, seniors 55 and up $20, and students $10, with a $5 student rush price at the door.



Published: Oct. 16, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 27