Fresno Grand Opera announced its 2013-14 lineup to season ticket holders this week. It doesn’t feature any traditional opera. But it does promise a big local production of “Les Miserables.”
“Les Miserables” opens Jan. 17 and will play four performances at the Saroyan Theatre. This will be a local production, not the revamped national tour that has been traveling the country for a few years and is currently in Sacramento. The revamped version, which tightens the storyline and eliminates the trademark turntable, is slated to open on Broadway in March, marking a return to New York after an absence of many years.
National tours of “Les Miserables” played at the Saroyan Theatre in 1993, 1996 and 2000, but this is the first time an original production of the musical will take the stage there.
The opera’s general director, Ronald D. Eichman, said the principal members in the Fresno production have all either performed in the national tour or on Broadway, adding:
Additionally, some ensemble roles are cast with artists who have national experience, and we fully anticipate that the balance of the locally and regionally cast ensemble will deliver on a national caliber level.
Eichman calls the upcoming “Les Miserables” the largest scale production in the company’s history, financially and otherwise. “We have been anticipating this production for three years, when we were notified of the release date for the licensing to produce it,” he said.
Single-ticket prices for “Les Miserables” range from $55-$130.
I’m planning to get into an expanded discussion of the large number of local productions of “Les Miserables” — there are five between June 19 and next January — in an upcoming post. (A Visalia production opens next week, and StageWorks Fresno and Reedley’s River City Theatre Company open productions on July 12.) But I wonder if the market for the musical is big enough for all these permutations.
Another question to ponder: Does the opera company risk offending fans of, well, opera by not having any traditional offerings in the season? (Granted, “Les Miserables” is a sung-through piece, but it’s usually classified as musical theater.)
The company opens its season Aug. 30 at the Saroyan Theatre with a presentation of the three tenors of Il Volo, described as a “global Italian operatic pop sensation.”
Rounding out its season, the company will perform two performances in its popular choral-concerts series at the First Congregational Church: “Christmas on Van Ness” on Dec. 7; and “Broadway on Van Ness” on March 16.
The opera in its season package also is piggybacking on two performances of the national tour of the Broadway in Fresno production of “Wicked” — which is running April 2-13 — and is including an opportunity for patrons to see Fresno Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (Feb. 28), both at the Saroyan Theatre.
I asked Eichman whether producing a season without traditional opera would open the company to criticism. His response:
We have been surveying our audience’s preferences over this same time frame, and ‘Les Miserables’ has consistently rated as one of their top choices. The initial response to our season has been overwhelmingly positive.
Any Fresno Grand Opera patrons out there care to chime in?
And if you’re a “Les Miserables” fan, how many productions do you plan to see?