The advent of a second light opera company in a region where the Durham Savoyards have monopolized the field for many years might raise eyebrows among more than those devoted to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. But H.M.S. Pinafore, the second annual production of the White Iris Light Opera, a company in residence at Meredith College, actually received the assistance of the older group. Not only does the show open this weekend with a cast of Meredith students and alumni supplemented by seasoned singers from the older company, but the Savoyards have let Dr. Jim Waddelow, White Iris' artistic director, borrow their orchestrations for the production.
Waddelow's company is devoted to giving young college artists a real-world summer stock experience while attracting younger, broader audiences as well. "People I'd worked with in New York City opera put me in the position to conduct my first opera at age 25," Waddelow says. "It changed my life and it totally changed the trajectory of my career. I just thought if a guy like me doesn't put people in their 20s in these positions, it's really hard for them to get that experience."
This weekend's performances come at the end of an intensive two-and-a-half-week production process—just like the pros. The production's placement in late August has become something of a scheduling coup: It nabs a number of the most promising student and regional artists just before the fall's academic and artistic seasons get under way.
The company is taking another page from the Savoyards. After last summer's inaugural production of Trial By Jury was set in the film noir 1950s, its Pinafore will take place at the dawn of the 1970s. "Our captain is going to look like he stepped off the cover of Sgt. Pepper," Waddelow chuckles. "Our production staff is so young, and the energy they have is really pretty cool. This is going to be a very funny production." Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 at the door. —Byron Woods