Royal English Opera holds final productions

Local opera company presents The Nautch Girl and A Princess of Kensington Aug. 7-8

The Royal English Opera Company in Rockford is preparing to present its final performances Aug. 7 and 8 at First Presbyterian Church, 406 N. Main St. The final show includes selections from two English operas: The Nautch Girl by Edward Soloman and A Princess of Kensington by Edward German. Performances will be given at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7 and 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 8.

The company was founded in 1999 by Scott Farrell, who manages it. He started it originally to prove a point to a music teacher in the area. The mission was to perform and record forgotten English operas of the 19th century and provide opportunity to attend or participate in operas of artistic merit for the community.

The first production was an audio recording of Thespis, the first opera of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan series. Though not considered successful, the company immediately went into its next production, which was presented in August 1999 at Midway Village & Museum Center. The Royal Engish Opera Company performed a not-to-be-forgotten production of The Princess’ Lament, an extravaganza in two scenes. In July 2000, the company gave the first performance anywhere of Arthur Sullivan’s lost opera, The Sapphire Necklace, also at Midway Village. After some “dead-in-the-water” productions in 2001, the company went through several selections from a variety of English operas, with an ensemble of only four voices. The most recent production was a studio recording of one of Farrell’s original operas, Not So Good as La Traviata, a burlesque of the famous Verdi opera, in 2002.

The upcoming show features selections from two English operas. The Nautch Girl is similar to a Gilbert and Sullivan piece, involving two Indian lovers of different castes who are forbidden to marry. The situation is complicated by sponging relatives and an idol named Bumbo who comes to life in search of the diamond that serves as his right eye. Kensington is much more complex. It concerns The Mountain Spirit, Azuriel, who has been suffering from jealousy for 1,000 years over the love shared by the lovely fairy Kenna and the mortal Prince Albion. Though Albion is dead, Azuriel determines that he shall see Albion safely married to a maiden of his own kind—that very day. To calm the angry fairy, Puck and Kenna have to produce a false wedding with a substitute groom standing in for the absent Albion. Further complications then ensue.

Neither of these operas has had a modern production, and Nautch Girl never had a North American premiere. This will be its first performance here. Kensington ran briefly in New York in 1903 before being withdrawn; it has not been seen since, although concert selections were given variously up until the 1940s in Britain.

Tickets will be sold only at the door. General admission is $3; $2 for students, seniors and children younger than 12. For more information, call (815) 639-9753.

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