“Right now, I’m figuring out how to make—or come across—10 hot pink nun habits in men’s sizes,” says Daniel Ellis-Ferris, Founder and Executive Producer of Brooklyn’s LoftOpera, on organizing the company’s June production of Le Comte Ory. “So that’s interesting.”
Italian composer Gioachino Rossini’s 1828 comic opera follows the (mis)adventures of frolicsome hornball Count Ory in 13th century France.
“This is one of the most whimsical pieces we’ve done,” says Ellis-Ferris. “Comedy isn’t new to us, but this one is just super ‘outside’ —we’ve got guys posing as nuns; astroturf; 2,500 pieces of fake fruit; a moving stage; circus performers and aerialists… It’s totally ridiculous; almost unexplainable. It’s new for us to be doing something this playful.”
Clearly, LoftOpera is not your typical opera company, and theirs won’t be a typical envisioning of this classic farce.
“For example, there’s a threesome at the end of the show,” Ellis-Ferris explains. “When they did it at the Met [Metropolitan Opera], they just had three people sitting on a big bed, fluffing a duvet around. That’s about all you can do at the Met. But we’re working with gymnasts and circus people in a warehouse deep in Bushwick! So we can make ours a lot sexier. And our audience will have fun with that, rather than be offended by it.”
That sure does sound fun, but it should also be noted that sexy, farcical, and ridiculous are not the same as amateurish. This Le Comte Ory will be an 80-person, full-chorus-and-cast production, including a 30-piece orchestra, performed in a 450-seat house (circus school and venue The Muse), with sponsorship by The New School, among other heavy cultural hitters.
And LoftOpera keeps getting written up in The New York Times: The Gray Lady has reviewed three of their shows in the past year, and in March ran a feature titled “Beer Bottles, Graffiti and Puccini: The LoftOpera Formula.” Of course that kind of publicity is good for the company, but Ellis-Ferris also likens it to the recurrent Times-discovers-Brooklyn phenomenon. “This is something we’re doing in and for our community,” he says. “And within the community, there isn’t that Peeping Tom aspect to it. It’s more honest.”
LoftOpera is excited to be assembling an accomplished team for this production, including music director Sean Kelly, stage director John de los Santos, and a crew of professional riggers from The Muse who will help ensure everyone’s safety as people and fruit fly around. “It’s really nice when a show works out like this,” Ellis-Ferris says. “When you can make these wonderful pairings and give great people the opportunity to work together.”
On how this work fits into the LoftOpera oeuvre, he says, “Often, we’re trying to fit grand drama into an unconventional space. But this one is really a grand comedy.”
“Also, we just thought that having someone running across a warehouse in a hot pink suit really fit us.”