Fall Arts Celebration kicks off with 'El Capitan'

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Grand Valley State University’s Fall Arts Celebration 2010 kicks off with a rare opportunity to go back in time with a special concert performance, during the university's 50th anniversary year.

The GVSU Music Department presents John Philip Sousa’s "El Capitan," Monday, September 13, at 8 p.m., at the Louis Armstrong Theatre, in the Performing Arts Center, on the Allendale Campus. Metropolitan Opera tenor Michael Forest will join Grand Valley vocal faculty members Dale Schriemer and Kathryn Stieler, and Grand Rapids Opera performer William Bokhout in the starring roles. Visiting Professor Ben Cole will narrate and Professor Barry Martin will direct the University Arts Chorale and a music faculty/student orchestra. 

At the turn of the 20th century, Sousa was possibly the most widely known name in music during an era known as the “golden age of bands.” The music of the March King has become synonymous with both patriotism and the American spirit. His 12-year tenure, beginning in 1880 as director of the United States Marine Band in Washington D.C., and his subsequent world tours with the famed Sousa Band, left an indelible footprint on the musical fabric of America.  

What is often forgotten is Sousa’s love for the operetta. Just prior to accepting the directorship of the Marine Band, the young composer moved to Philadelphia where he performed, arranged and composed for several theaters as well as created orchestrations for several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His own “El Capitan,” first performed in 1896, played for four years in America and six months in England, and turned out to be the most important 19th-century operetta by an American composer. 

“El Capitan” is a fun mixture of silliness and mistaken identity. The lead character, Don Enrico Medigua, is the viceroy of Spanish-occupied Peru. After he secretly has the rebel leader El Capitan killed, he disguises himself to assume his enemy’s identity in order to avoid the anger of the rebel soldiers.

Generous support and commitment to Fall Arts Celebration 2010 has been provided by Ginny Gearhart and the Gearhart Family, Liesel and Hank Meijer, Elaine and Larry Shay, Judy and Peter Theune and media sponsor WOOD newsradio. Each of the seven Fall Arts Celebration 2010 events is free and open to the public, though complimentary tickets are required for "El Capitan" and "Appalachian Spring." For tickets, call the GVSU Box Office at (616) 331-2300. For more Fall Arts Celebration information visit www.gvsu.edu/fall arts, or call (616) 331-2180. Learn about Grand Valley's 50th Anniversary at www.gvsu.edu/anniversary.