Offenbach’s comedic masterpiece, The Beautiful Helen of Troy, brings a zany take and dazzling tunes to the world of Ancient Greece. The Lakes Area Music Festival’s star-studded cast from around the world will present this naughty musical farce at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. There will be a pre-concert interview led by Steve Staruch of Minnesota Public Radio 30 minutes prior to each performance.
In an all-new production designed by the Festival’s team of nationally renowned designers, audiences will be transported to the Great Temple of Jupiter, the bedchamber of the queen and even an Elvis-era beach-party! British soprano, Anna Dennis will play the title role of Helen alongside Paris-based tenor, Zachary Wilder as the Prince Paris. The production is directed by JJ Hudson, with the Festival Orchestra led by Italian conductor, Jonathan Brandani of Minnesota Opera.
Anna Dennis’ concert performances have included Britten’s War Requiem at the Berlin Philharmonie, roles in all three Monteverdi operas in John Eliot Gardiner’s world tour of the Trilogy, Thomas Ades’ Life Story accompanied by the composer at the Lincoln Centre’s White Light Festival in New York, and Bach cantatas with Les Violons du Roy in Montreal.
American tenor, Zachary Wilder’s recent projects include the Spirit of Light in The Tale of Genji starring Ebizo Ichikawa at Kabuki-za in Tokyo, a recording and concert as Osman in Händel’s Almira with the Boston Early Music Festival, Everardo in a staged production of Zingarelli’s Giulietta e Romeo at the Winter in Schwetzingen Festival, and Bach’s Saint John Passion with Bach Collegium Japan in Tokyo.
Mezzo-soprano, Adriana Zaballa (who has been praised by The Wall Street Journal for showing “tremendous stamina and boy-like flair” and by The New York Times as “a vivid, fearless presence”) will play the pants-role of Orestes. “This comedy is as light as a French soufflé and as flashy as a 90s Versace pool party,” said Zaballa. “Every scene is a surprise of beauty, spectacle and charm – not to be missed!”
Next on the Festival season is Beethoven’s Pastorale, featuring the Festival Chamber Orchestra led by Courtney Lewis of the Jacksonville Symphony. The concert will take place Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m., with a pre-concert lecture by Maestro Lewis at 7 p.m.
Beethoven’s sixth symphony, nicknamed “Pastorale” is unique in the composer’s output, taking the audience on a journey through scenes in the countryside, including a village folk dance and a thunderous tempest. Ravel’s kaleidoscopic Le tombeau de Couperin and Schreker’s rarely-heard masterwork, the Chamber Symphony, will round out the program.
On Aug. 17 at 10:30 a.m., the Lakes Area Music Festival offers an outdoor yoga class at the Brainerd High School football field. All ability levels are welcome at this event, with a live professional string quartet to accompany the class led by Jennifer Smith of Nisswa Yoga.
The Lakes Area Music Festival, an annual summer series attracting leading instrumental and vocal performers from around the world, runs through August 25, with performances at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Concerts are free of charge, with no tickets required. More than 180 instrumentalists and vocalists from 32 states and nine countries will be in the Brainerd Lakes area as guest artists. For more information visit www.lakesareamusic.org.