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With its 14 soloists, Gioachino Rossini's festive "Il viaggio a Reims" remains an energetic yet demanding production for any opera company. Fortunately for Houston audiences, the University of Houston's Moores Opera Center will be up to the challenge Oct. 23-26.
Performed in Italian with English surtitles, the opera focuses on a group of international dignitaries on their way to the coronation of France's Charles X. When they find themselves trapped within their hotel, they do what any road weary bon vivants would do ... PARTY.
This was among Rossini's final operas and his last one in Italian. Written and composed for the actual coronation of King Charles X, it was first performed in 1825. After a handful of subsequent performances, the opera remained a lost treasure until a more than a century later.
In the 1970s, musicologists Janet Johnson and Philip Gossett reassembled the opera's re-discovered manuscripts. The Opera Theatre of St. Louis hosted its United States debut in 1986, featuring the talents of future UH professor Melanie Sonnenberg and UH guest artist Ted Taylor, who is conducting this production.
The Moores Opera Center presented the Houston premiere of "Il viaggio a Reims" in 2000, and its director Buck Ross is eager to bring it back to UH.
"The piece is a lot of fun," said Ross, director of the Moores Opera Center. "It is absolutely some of the best music Rossini ever wrote. The piece moves like lightning, is very entertaining and tuneful. The music is very flashy for the singers."
The piece is rarely performed given the sheer number of soloists on one stage. For Ross and the Moores Opera Center, that's the attraction to presenting it. With a rich pool of Moores School of Music vocalists, everyone is ready to rise to the occasion and deliver an extraordinary performance.
"An opera with this many principal roles is expensive for a big opera company to cast, but for us, it is ideal. It allows for more opportunities for our singers," Ross said. "That's why we wanted to revive the work."
"Il viaggio a Reims" will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 23, 24 and 26 and at 2 p.m., Oct. 25 in Moores Opera House (Entrance 16 off of Cullen Boulevard). Tickets are $15 and $10 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, contact the Moores box office at 713-743-3313.
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