When it came time to picking performances for its 2013-14 season, Opera North took a hard look at its strengths: A 40-piece orchestra. A huge company. A superabundance of classically trained opera singers. All that considered, “South Pacific” was an easy choice for the 31-year-old organization. This weekend, Aug. 3 at 7:30 p.m., the company will present the first of five performances of the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical at the Lebanon Opera House. There are shows Aug. 9, 15 and 17 — all at 7:30 p.m. There’s an Aug. 8 matinee at 2 p.m. Pamela Pantos, has been the executive director at Opera North for about five years, watching it go from performing professional light operas to full-scale musicals — by design. “We did a lot of marketing analysis, focus groups, and we found that the strength of company is that we have all these classically trained singers,” Pantos said. “These are huge amazing voices — no other place has a full orchestra and these great singers. “This was the right show to do.” Last year, one of Opera North’s most popular performances was another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The King and I.” “People loved it — we heard it time and time again,” Pantos said. “We kind of opened a door to giving people an experience they’re not going to get anywhere else.” “South Pacific” is part of the organization’s goal to appeal to a broader segment of the community. The musical tells the tale of American nurse Nellie Forbush stationed at a U.S. Naval base during World War II who falls in love with expatriate French plantation owner Emile de Becque. Pantos is eager for people to see Harold Wilson’s performance as de Becque. Wilson spent much of the 2010-11 season with The Metropolitan Opera, participating in productions of “Tosca,” “Armida,” “Roméo et Juliette,” “Boris Godunov,” and “Don Carlos.” “He’s done a lot of big bass roles, for him to get to do a role like this, it’s really exciting,” Pantos said. Wilson will sing alongside Kaitlyn Costello, who plays Forbush. Costello made her professional debut as Ado Annie in Central City Opera’s (Colo.) production of “Oklahoma” last year. Rounding out the cast are Stephen Carroll as Lieutenant Joseph Cable and Melissa Fajardo as Bloody Mary. Louis Burkot will conduct the orchestra and Gabriel Barre will direct. The musical will feature favorites like “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bloody Mary,” “Bali Ha’i,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.” For tickets, go to operanorth.org.
Opera North Heads ‘South’ For Summer