"Kismet, A Musical Arabian Night," an exotic
tale of passion, magic and intrigue set in 11th-century Baghdad, is
not, strictly speaking, an opera.
It's a musical, which opened on Broadway in 1953, ran for 365
performances and has seen many incarnations since. With songs by
Robert Wright and George Forrest, based on works by the Russian
composer Alexander Borodin, the performance abounds with rich,
Loads of music, yes. Opera, no.
Which dissuaded Chapel Hill's Long Leaf Opera Company not at all.
Long Leaf, which moved its base of operations here from Durham late
will present "Kismet" this weekend in Chapel
Opera Company will present "Kismet, A Musical
Arabian Night" this weekend in the East Chapel
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday and
Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. A fund-raising
silent auction will precede Friday's show,
starting at 7 p.m.
Admission is $16 for the public and $10 for
students. There is a 10 percent discount for
groups of 10 or more.
For information or to purchase tickets, call
338-2642 or visit the Web site at http://www.longleafopera.org/
"This is our first Broadway show," said Benjamin Keaton, Long
Leaf's co-founder and music director. "Up until now, we've done
nothing but operas. And, really, this show is so full of wonderful
numbers, based on classical music, that in a lot of ways it's almost
an opera. It's just so good we wanted to do it."
Long Leaf will present "Kismet" Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and
Sunday at 2 p.m. A silent auction will precede Friday's performance.
"Kismet" is not a small production; in addition to the main
roles, there's a chorus of 15, a dance group of 16 and a 16-piece
Rick Piersall plays the Poet, the enigmatic character whose
arrival sets the story's chain of events in motion, and veteran
vocalist Elizabeth Grayson, who has appeared in three Long Leaf
operas, holds the female lead. The brilliant costumes -- all jewels,
baubles and flowing fabrics -- are by Long Leaf''s designer Maria
Savitsky. All in all, Keaton said, it's a sumptuous show to look at
and to listen to.
"It's a big show," he said. "The music is great, and we have
terrific people performing it. It's beautifully costumed, and the
story is a lot of fun."
In "Kismet," the Poet, who passes himself off as the possessor of
magical arts, comes to town and begins casting spells and hexes.
Unusual things seem to occur when he does this, and presently the
people begin to believe that he holds the keys to magic and fate.
For this show, Long Leaf partnered with students from East Chapel
Hill High, who built and painted sets.
"It's good experience for them, they get to watch professional
performers at work, and they do a wonderful job," Keaton said.
Long Leaf Opera did its first show at East last fall, presenting
"Amahl and the Night Visitors." James Schaeffer, the company's
executive director, said that show proved the wisdom of Long Leaf's
move to Orange County.
"We had a very nice turnout and an outstanding reception,"
Schaeffer said. "It went very well. It really validated our decision
to move our base to Chapel Hill."
Long Leaf received another bit of good news recently, when Opera
America, the nation's association of leading opera companies,
accepted Long Leaf's "Twelfth Night" for inclusion in the Opera
America convention in Seattle.
Given that Long Leaf was accepted into full professional company
membership by Opera America just last year, Schaeffer said scoring a
spot in the national convention was a coup.
"This is a big deal for us," he said. "We are brand new to Opera
America. It is very competitive to have a work