By Robin Miller
December 20, 2012
Think of the stage as a runway, where Marie Antoinette’s trends give way to Jane Austen’s.
Of course, this isn’t the story of The New Moon, where a young aristocrat named Robert leaves 18th century France for Louisiana. But fashion definitely will have its place when the LSU Opera opens Sigmund Romberg’s 1928 operetta on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre in the LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building.
The setting is perfect for Louisiana’s yearlong bicentennial celebration, and the music surely will appeal to audiences.
“This is more musical theater than it is opera,” Michael Borowitz said. “It was the last of Sigmund Romberg’s operettas, and there are a lot of popular songs in it that many people will recognize.”
Borowitz is the LSU Opera’s music director and conductor. And he’s right. “Marianne” is a popular number that came out of this operetta. “Lover, Come Back to Me” is another.
Romberg wrote the show’s music, while Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel and Lawrence Schwab penned the books and lyrics. The result was a hit that opened on Sept. 19, 1928, in Broadway’s Imperial Theatre.
The story opens in 1792, when the aristocrat Robert’s revolutionist inclinations force him to flee France. He takes on an assumed name and sells himself as a bond-servant to planter and ship owner Monsieur Beaunoir and his family in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the Paris police are looking for him, which prevents Robert from revealing his true identity to the Beaunoir family, specifically the beautiful Beaunoir daughter Marianne. Robert has fallen in love with Marianne. There would be no story if he didn’t. And he can’t tell her that he was born of noble blood.
It doesn’t take long for Paris detective Vicomte Ribaud to track down Robert and send the young aristocrat sailing back to France on the ship, The New Moon. But what hurts him more is the thought that Marianne may have betrayed him.
Has she? And does Robert escape his fate in France? Well, the only way to find out is to attend a performance of The New Moon, where Marianne not only captures Robert’s heart but wears the latest fashions.
Well, the latest styles in 18th century, which would have been a couple of steps behind those on the Paris runways.
“I always do a lot of research,” Jonathan Knipsicher said.
Knipsicher is the costume designer for this show, his fifth with the LSU Opera. After working in Baton Rouge, he’ll return to his full-time job as costume supervisor for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
LSU Assistant Professor of Voice Dennis Jesse invited Knipsicher to LSU after the two worked at an opera program in Italy.
“And LSU has been so great,” Knipsicher said. “There is so much talent here, and I’m not just saying that. It’s amazing. And when I design a costume, they do everything to make it work.”
Knipsicher threaded his needle along the edge of a fischu while speaking. That’s the name for the collar that draped over dresses in The New Moon’s era. It’ll probably be part of a bond servant’s outfit, certainly not Marianne’s.
No, she’ll start off the show with a big-bustled dress, a trend set by Marie Antoinette.
“Marie Antoinette was a big trendsetter, but her fashions fell out of favor after the French Revolution,” Knipsicher said. “After that, we see more of the style of Jane Austen come in.”
- CAST: Natalie Logan, Julie; Jenee Luquette, Julie; Benjamin Hall, Monsieur Beaunoir; Joel Mathias, Captain Duval; Jacob Miller, Vicomte Ribaud; Matt Daniels, Robert; Enrico Cannella, Alexander; Jonathan Bryan, Besac; Michael Bade, Jacques; Megan Barrera, Marianne; Ariana Wehr, Marianne; Pedro Willis-Barbosa, Philippe; Alexandra Hollerman, Clotilde Lombaste; Prentiss Mouton, Doorman of the Tavern; Cadie Jordan, Flower Girl; Zachery Stiefel, A Spaniard; Johnny Ballance, A Dancer; Greg Gallagher, Fouchette; Sean Matassa, Captain Dejean. Ensemble: Rachel Abbate, Caroline Armstrong, Johnny Ballance, Edward Bell, Aaron N. Butler, Yen Lin Chin, Richard Coleman, Shemela Goodloe, Dwayne Griffin, Anna Hittle, Rachel Klaassen, Ben Klaus, Rebecca Kremer, Ella Laird, Jessica Laliberte, Rachel Looney, Rachel Lorando, Kayla Louis, Caleb Massie, Sean Matassa, Chelsea Miller, Prentiss Mouton, Ben Papac, Olivia Rawlins, Lindsay Roy, Amelia Sharp, Karley Stein, Zachary Stiefel.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Dugg McDonough, director; Michael Borowitz, music director.