Monét X Change joins comic masterpiece ‘Die Fledermaus.
Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t associate drag queens with the opera, ballet and symphony, but it’s one of the delightful surprises of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s season opener Sept. 16-17 at the Schuster Center.
Monét X Change, the popular first double-crown winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” will be a featured guest artist and will sing Vincenzo Bellini’s “Vi ravviso, o loughi ameni” from “La sonnambula” and Gioachino Rossini’s “La Calunnia” from “The Barber of Seville.”
She earned the title Miss Congeniality on Season 10 of the reality competition show and became the first queen of color inducted into the Hall of Fame after winning All-Stars 4.
Joining Monet will be 70 dancers, singers and musicians from the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Audience members are encouraged to don sequins, wear masks or come in costume for the festive event. To add to the fun, attendees can sign up for a Preconcert Ballroom Bash and an After Party with Monét and two of The Rubi Girls.
A festive kickoff to the season
Kathleen Clawson, artistic director of Dayton Opera and stage director for the upcoming concert, says she’s excited to begin the new season with a comic masterpiece, the second act of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.”( “The revenge of the bat).” The scene is Prince Orlofsky’s masquerade where disguises and deception abound.
In the opera world, says Clawson, this act is often used for gala concerts, adding extra music and guest artists. “We are doing just that, ‘supersizing’ the production with additional ballet featuring new choreography by Dayton Ballet’s new artistic director, Brandon Ragland. “
Prince Orlofsky, the Russian prince who is throwing the party, is portrayed by a mezzo soprano. “This role is what is known in opera as a ‘pants role’, in which a woman plays the role of a man,” explains Clawson. “Switching gender roles in opera is a long tradition. It’s also a tradition to have extra guests at this party and Monét is exactly who Orlofsky would have as special entertainment!”
Monet, a bass baritone who studied opera performanceat the Westminster Choir College of Rider University, recently sang the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in the Minnesota Opera’s production of “The Daughter of the Regiment.”
A Dayton gem
Clawson says “Fledermaus” has been an important part of the repertory of Dayton Opera. “It has been presented seven times and no wonder. It’s a fun, lighthearted evening of theater filled with brilliant, unforgettable music. Virtually every note of this operetta was inspired by the rhythms of the dances which were wildly popular all over Europe in 1874. Strauss was prolific in the composition of dances like the polka and the galop or can-can.”
The opera plot features a couple who’ve settled into a routine and have forgotten what drew them together in the first place. “Through an evening of role-play they reveal to each other the sexiest version of themselves and fall back in love,” Clawson says. Playing this couple, Eisenstein and Rosalinda, are an actual married couple, Dayton native baritone Jason Cox and soprano Rebecca Krynski Cox.
Jason attended Sinclair Community College as a Schuster Scholar. He transferred to Manhattan School of Music to finish undergrad and also receive his master’s degree. His father, Jim Cox, was a firefighter for the city of Dayton, and his mother, Ellen Fogarty Cox, was an administrative secretary for Dayton Public Schools. “Having spent all of my professional years singing overseas until now,” he says, “it’s very special to me to be able to have so many friends and family in the audience.” When they are not traveling, the couple resides in Oak Island, North Carolina.
“Die Fledermaus” also features mezzo-soprano Katherine DeYoung (Orlofsky), bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw (Falke), soprano Amber Norelai (Adele) and bass-baritone Sam Dhobhany (Frank).
DPO concertmaster also featured
Vittorio Monti’s technically challenging “Czardas” will showcase DPO Acting Concertmaster Aurelian Oprea, who has been playing with the Philharmonic since 2000.
“The “Csárdás” is a traditional Hungarian dance, but the one I’ll be performing at this concert was written by an Italian composer,” he says. “It is a virtuosic piece that requires a fair amount of acrobatics, but it is fun to play and it’s always a crowd pleaser.”
Oprea says he always looks forward to the first concert of the season. “‘Die Fledermaus’ is a fun operetta to play,” he says. “I remember seeing it performed both in Romanian and in Hungarian, in my hometown of Cluj.”
Oprea was born in Cluj-Napoca, the cultural capital of Romania’s Transylvania region. His parents and grandfather were string players in the Romanian National Opera House Orchestra, and his grandmother was the prima ballerina of the Opera’s ballet corps. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Bowling Green State University and won his first professional audition at age 20, becoming the youngest member of the Michigan Opera Theater Orchestra in Detroit. Opera, who learned English by watching television, is also fluent in Romanian and Hungarian.
DPO Conductor Neal Gittleman says ever since the three arts organization’s combined he has always loved the season opener. “There’s something so exciting about putting all of our performers — ballet, opera and orchestra —together for a big, olé-olé season-opening show,” he says. “We haven’t done one since the COVID shutdown, so I’m super-excited that it’s back this September.”