Mars Calling 

Berkeley Opera has a riot (again) with its punk-Rossini update, The Riot Grrrl on Mars.

The King of Mars is picking up TV signals from Earth, and he's been struck by the sweet, docile women he's seen on The Donna Reed Show and other old sitcoms on Nick @ Nite. So he sends a spaceship to kidnap a male Earthling punk rocker, hoping to entice one of those TV women to fly to Mars to rescue him. But the plan blows up in his green face. "Of course," laughs Andrew Morgan, director of Berkeley Opera's The Riot Grrrl on Mars, "the female who lands on Mars is this riot grrrl, Quarantina." And the king is in ten kinds of post-feminist trouble.

Riot Grrrl's punk-rock-comic-operatic adaptation of Gioachino Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, with wacky new English lyrics added to the familiar arias (Cruda sorte becomes "What a bummer!"), is the brainchild of Berkeley Opera's dramaturge David Scott Marley, who first staged it in 1997. Obviously the time is right for a revival, as the final offering in the company's "Cherchez la Femme" series. Director Morgan, a tenor who also sings the role of the punkish Mosquito, sees Marley's spoof libretto as timeless: "It's fairly typical in opera, a female rescuing a male, like in Beethoven's Fidelio. This particular male happens to be a rock musician taken captive as a slave on Mars. What we've done is to transport the Rossini opera to a more contemporary setting, with a riot of colors. My theme was classic comic books, the kind in which a thing was made to look alien by painting it a different color."

Berkeley Opera is duplicate-casting the roles: Sonia Gariaeff and Marie Bafus as the Riot Grrrl, Morgan and Stephen Rumph as Mosquito, Richard Goodman (the company's founder) and Cliff Romig as the King of Mars, Sylva Blum and Eileen Morris as the Queen of Mars, and Martin Bell and Wayne Wong as the Professor. The music is conducted by Jonathan Khuner. The Riot Grrrl on Mars plays nine performances, Friday, July 19 through August 4, at Berkeley Opera's home, Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley. Tickets: 925-798-1300.


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