The musical ‘Aida’ by Elton John and Tim Rice will headline the 2023 season of the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre.
LOGAN – The big secret ain’t secret anymore.
Audience members attending an informal discussion with Michael Ballam of the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre prior to company’s triumphant debut of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on July 7 got the word about the festival’s 2023 season “right from the horse’s mouth.”
The festival’s founding director said that the line-up for next season would include two very different versions of Aida; the Wagner opera Lohengrin; the beloved musical Oliver!; and the recent Broadway hit A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.
Ballam was candid about explaining the motives behind those selections.
Aida is a 1871 opera with music by Giuseppe Verdi set in ancient Egypt that is a beloved part of the operatic canon. But Ballam was concerned that the opera’s story – of a doomed love triangle – was better told in a recent musical.
Written by pop star Elton John and Tim Rice, their Disney musical version of Aida debuted on Broadway in 2000 to critical acclaim, winning four Tony Awards.
So UFOMT has decided to produce both the opera and the musical versions of Aida in 2023, Ballam explained, to let Cache Valley audiences decide which they prefer.
The opera Aida was last performed by the Festival Opera in 2008.
The impresario added that the works of the great German composer Richard Wagner have never been performed here and the MFOMT intends to correct that omission by staging the opera Lohengrin in 2023.
Lohergrin is a character out of Germanic Arthurian legend. The son of Perzival (Percival, in English), Lohengrin is a knight of the Holy Grail sent in a boat pulled by swans to rescue a maiden who can never ask his name.
It’s an opera by Wagner; it’s complicated.
Ballam acknowledged that children in starring roles have been another glaring omission from the UFOMT production calendar in recent years. So the theater company will produce Oliver! in 2023.
That musical was adapted from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, Oliver! debuted in London’s West End theater district in 1960 and has been playing almost continuously somewhere in the world ever since.
The UFOMT last produced Oliver! more than a decade ago in 2011.
Finally, the Festival Opera will also produce the eagerly-awaited A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder next season.
Ballam explained that might not sound like an appropriate topic for a musical, but it’s all in good – albeit typically English – fun.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder debuted on Broadway in November of 2013 and won a fistful of Tony Awards the following year, including Best Musical.
It’s basically the improbable story of a down-on-his-luck distant relative of an English noble family who proceeds to kill his way into inheriting an earldom.
It’s a relatively small cast musical, because all of the soon-to-be-deceased family members – you can count all eight of them on whatever you’ve got eight of – are played by the same actor.
The UFOMT’s next season will begin in July of 2023 and run until early August. Its musicals and operas will be performed at the Ellen Eccles and Utah theaters in downtown Logan.