Show Photographs

28th Festival Season - 2006

The Firefly

By: Rudolf Friml
Premiere: Lyric Theatre, New York, December 2, 1912
Performance Dates:
  • June 20th, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • June 24th, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • June 28th, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • July 1st, 2006 - 8:00pm
  • July 8th, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • July 14th, 2006 - 8:00pm
  • July 23rd, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • July 28th, 2006 - 2:00pm
  • August 2nd, 2006 - 8:00pm
  • August 10th, 2006 - 2:00pm

Born in Prague, the unknown composer, Rudolf Friml, got his first big break when producer Oscar Hammerstein asked him to compose the score for The Firefly after Victor Hebert turned down the offer, refusing to work with diva Emma Trentini. After only a month of work, Friml produced a glittering score for what would be his first theatrical success. Songs include the Italian influenced Giannina Mia, the delightfully tripping Love is Like a Firefly, the gentle waltz song Sympathy, the richly swimming In Sapphire Seas, and the lovely lighthearted ensemble When a Maid Comes Knocking at Your Heart.

The story begins with Little Street-Singing Nina escaping a cruel master by disguising herself as a cabin boy on the Bermuda-going yacht of the wealthy socialite Mrs. Van Dare. Professor Franz thinks he has found a wonderful choirboy, but, if he is disappointed when the truth of Nina's sex come out, Mrs. Van Dare's intended son-in-law, Jack Travers, is not. After some enjoyable misadventures on the Caribbean cruise, including false accusations and a misdirected letter, and with the passing of time, the jilted Geraldine Van Dare gets a suitable husband in the comfortable "uncle" John Thurston. Nina, now a famous Prima Donna, becomes Mrs. Travers. The comedy is played fully through the secondary couple: Geraldine's maid, Suzette, and Thurston's valet, Pietro. Don't miss the opportunity to see this nostalgic, early American work. Other successful works by Friml include Rose Marie and the musical comedies: The Vagabond King and The Three Musketeers.

From Mothballs to Main Stage: Ohio Light Opera Revives 'The Firefly'

Classic Rudolf Friml work to be presented for the first time in 75 years this summer

WOOSTER, Ohio � Ohio Light Opera Artistic Director Steven Daigle will take "The Firefly" out of mothballs and onto the stage at The College of Wooster's Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.) when the company presents Rudolf Friml's classic work for the first time in 75 years on Tuesday, June 20, at 2 p.m.

"The Firefly" made its debut at New York City's Lyric Theater on Dec. 2, 1912. Save for a short revival in 1931, it has not been performed on the stage since. A 1937 film version starred Jeanette MacDonald and Allan Jones, but the plot was completely different and much of the original music was cut, something Daigle said was typical of Hollywood. "They toyed with the music a lot in the movies," he said. "That makes the piece lose its historical importance, something our audience has developed a taste for."

Daigle described bringing "Firefly" to the stage as "a resurrection." While the company's music directors started working on the score in April, Daigle began his work last November. To secure the original script, he had to go to Lincoln Center in New York City and, under guard, copy from the only existing script, which was part of a private collection in the theater's library. "It's wonderful to take and resurrect these old works," said Daigle. "Part of our mission is to present early American operetta."

"The Firefly" is early Americana. Set in New York City at the beginning of the story because Friml lived and worked on Broadway, the production makes a connection with the city, instead of being simply a venue for the plot. Daigle thinks audience members will enjoy this connection because it is a reflection of a time in history. "It's an American operetta in an American city."

One of the unique aspects of The Ohio Light Opera is that cast members take a part in most of the seven productions, but, because of the rigorous schedule, many of the lead actors split their roles. The Ohio Light Opera's production of this tale of misadventure and mistaken identities stars Robin DeLeon and Donata Cucinotta as Nina, a street-singing pickpocket.

To escape a cruel master, Nina disguises herself as a cabin boy on the yacht belonging to socialite, Mrs. Oglesby Van Dare, played by Elizabeth Mitchel. Onboard the yacht headed for the Caribbean, choirmaster Herr Franz, played by Joseph Valone, mistakes Nina for a choirboy. The relationship between the Maid, Suzette, played by Jill Anna Ponasik and Jessie Wright Martin, and the Valet, Pietro, played by Patrick Howle and Tyler Nelson, adds comic relief. Through false accusations and a misdirected letter, all is made right when this one-time street urchin becomes a grand diva.

Friml, a renowned composer and pianist, was born in Prague in 1879. He toured Europe before moving to New York City to compose for the stage. When celebrated composer Victor Herbert refused to work with the tempestuous diva, Emma Trentini, the relatively unknown Friml was chosen to take his place and write the score to Hammerstein's new operetta, "The Firefly." American librettist and lyricist, Otto Harbach, wrote the lyrics for this three-act musical comedy.

Friml wrote several other operettas and musicals, including "Rose-Marie" (1924) and "The Vagabond King" (1925), both of which have been performed by The Ohio Light Opera. "It is one of his best scores musically because he's not so wrapped up in conventions of what tastes were at the time," said Daigle of Friml. "Rather, he was a young composer serving his own artistic endeavors."

Article written by Laura McHugh
Production Team
ConductorJason Alfieri
Stage DirectorSteven Daigle
ChoreographerCarol Hageman
Assistant DirectorStephen Carr
Set DesignerTymberley Wittrig
Costume DesignerCharlene Gross
Lighting DesignerKrystal Kennel
Sybil Van DareKarla Hughes
Suzette, Maid to GeraldineJill Anna Ponasik
Jessie Wright Martin
Pietro, Valet to Mr. ThurstonPatrick Howle
Tyler Nelson
Mrs. Oglesby Van Dare, Sybil's MotherElizabeth Mitchell
Jenkins, Confidential SecretaryJacob Allen
Geraldine Van Dare, Mrs. Van Dare's NieceSarah Asmar
Danielle McCormick
Jack Travers, her SweetheartGrant Knox
Jack Beetle
John Thurston, his UncleBoyd Mackus
Herr Franz, a ChoirmasterJoseph Valone
Nina, a Street SingerRobin DeLeon
Donata Cucinotta
CaptainNicholas Hartley
Antonio Columbo, a PickpocketErin Jackson-Legris
Corelli, Nina's GuardianKevin Blickfeldt
Women of the Ensemble: Sarah Asmar, Donata Cucinotta, Stina Marie Eberhardt, Ashly Evans, Sahara Glasener-Boles, Karla Hughes, Robin DeLeon, Anne Marie Frohnmayer, Sara Gartland, Erin Jackson-Legris, Amanda Kingston, Claire Maloney, Jessie Wright Martin, Danielle McCormick, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jill Anna Ponasik and Maren Tenney.
Men of the Ensemble: Jacob Allen, Jack Beetle, Kevin Blickfeldt, Anthony Buck, Peter Bush, Cory Clines, Michael Denos, Nicholas Hartley, Patrick Howle, Grant Knox, Adam Lloyd, Boyd Mackus, Tyler Nelson, Tyler Oliphant, Benjamin Robinson and Joseph Valone.