Fan favorites return for the Florentine’s fall debut

Fan favorites return for the Florentine’s fall debut

By Kelly Schlicht, Development Manager
When the Florentine Opera hits the Marcus Center stage on October 20 and 22 with its production of The Merry Widow, there will be many familiar faces that local opera fans will recognize.
Alyson Cambridge as Cio-Cio-San in Florentine’s production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY (2015).
Soprano Alyson Cambridge will make her role debut as Hana Glawari, the young widow. She said the Florentine is a perfect place to try out a new role.
“The Milwaukee audience is enthusiastic, and now knows me a bit from two previous seasons. It is always nice to debut a new role with a Maestro and director that you have worked with before. There is trust and a real sense of collaboration that is there from the beginning.  I had that feeling with [Puccini’s Madama] Butterfly and it proved to be invaluable. I look forward to the same with Merry Widow,” said Cambridge.  Florentine fans may also remember Cambridge from her portrayal of Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme.



Corey McKern in Florentine’s production of ELIXIR OF LOVE (2015).
Also returning from the Florentine’s 2014 cast of La Boheme is Corey McKern, who was most recently seen in Die Fledermaus with the Florentine in May 2016.
“Alyson and I are good friends, and we did Boheme together at the Florentine. We keep up over the years, and I think she’s going to be amazing in this role. I can’t imagine anything better,” said McKern, who has played the role of Danilo five previous times over the past decade.


Both artists, who play each other’s unlikely love interests in The Merry Widow, had glowing things to say about being back in Milwaukee.
“I love it. It’s one of my favorite companies for a variety of reasons. I love Bill. The staff and casts are really warm and welcoming and collegial. Part of it is staying at the Knickerbocker, which is a little like opera camp. In our line of work, we’re constantly having miniature lives over and over again. And singing at the Florentine is a great miniature life,” said McKern.
“I’ve really come to love Milwaukee! It’s such a culturally and artistically rich community and has a fantastic restaurant scene, which I have really enjoyed exploring!” said Cambridge.



Rodell Rosel and Jamie Offenbach in Florentine’s production of ALBERT HERRING (2012).
Fan favorites Tenor Rodell Rosel and Bass-baritone Jamie Offenbach have also returned for The Merry Widow. Rosel, who will play Njegus in this production, appeared in the lead role in Albert Herring, as well as other productions and some summer appearances at Festa Italiana. Offenbach’s first role with the Florentine was in Aida in 2006. The Merry Widow, in which he plays Baron Zeta, marks his sixth production.
“It’s great to be asked to come back. It’s always our wish to consistently work and to have a company that keeps inviting me back after all these years, it’s a blessing,” said Offenbach.
Both Rosel and Offenbach say their role debuts in this production offer a unique challenge opera singers usually don’t face: many lines of dialogue.
“I’m doing it in a rough dialect that’s vaguely European or Russian sounding, so that’s even more challenging,” said Offenbach.
“It’s one of the hardest roles I’ve ever had to do. I treat music as my clothing on stage. I kind of hide behind it sometimes, I feel cloaked in it. But dialogue makes me feel like I’m naked. You have to present yourself as you are and not rely on the music,” said Rosel.
Rosel said he sought the coaching of a friend of his who is an actor in Chicago to help him prepare for the spoken lines.
“It was pure character development, comedic timing, and delivery,” he said.
Cast members say the spoken lines and non-stop laughs of The Merry Widow will remind the audience of American musical theatre, showing the link between operetta and the genre out of which it sprouted.
“If you’ve never been to an opera before it’s light and fun and pretty and it’s funny, so there’s something for everyone,” said McKern. “My dad is always a good litmus test because he sees a lot of the things I’m in and he doesn’t have a lot of experience with opera otherwise. He’s always saying I want you to do the Merry Widow again.”
These singers say this particular Merry Widow will leave you feeling nothing but joy.
“Where else can you see live theatre where you have beautiful can-can dancers on stage, you have this great music,” said Offenbach. “It’s so alive, it’s so funny, it’s so colorful and it’s a great story and the pacing and timing moves so quickly. I can’t imagine anyone getting bored with something like this. It’s a spectacle.”
To take in the spectacle and frivolity of The Merry Widow, get your tickets today! Ticket buyers to Friday’s performance are invited to stay for the cast party in the Anello Atrium immediately following the performance.  Meet, greet, and get to know these wonderful artists even better.

For tickets, call 414-291-5700 ext 224.

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