A baritone who yearns to be a soprano. A wannabe prima donna who can't get past being a mere drama queen. A riding crop-snapping dominatrix who claims to have discovered Richard Strauss's setting of "I Love Little Pussy."
This is the stuff of REAL opera. Or at least the stuff of real opera tryouts as revealed in Martin Kalmanoff's one act comedy, "The Audition."
On Tuesday evening, Anchorage audiences will get a peek at a whacky world of high notes and low expectations when Anchorage Opera stages the piece in its Dark Night series. The term "dark night" refers to a break in a scheduled run when the theater's spotlights do not go on. In the past Anchorage Opera has used these lacunae during its productions to showcase everything from aria recitals to traditional Native Alaska music.
This year, under the direction of the company's executive associate artistic director, Andrew Sweeney, there's an ambitious schedule of short musical theater offerings.
"They're pretty alternative works not normally seen," Sweeney said. "They're done in workshops and at a lot of colleges, but they're not long enough to fit into the main repertoire. They're all in English and often tend to be a little risque."
As with "The Audition," they tend to lean toward comedy. In April, for instance, the bill will feature a pairing of "Bon Appetit" by the prominent American composer Lee Hoiby -- a singing version of Julia Child's television show featuring Nancy Caudill as the chef herself -- and "La Pizza del Destino" by Steve Cohen, in which staff and patrons at a New York restaurant discuss the questionable ingredients going into the recipes.
Sweeney calls it an "indie approach" to opera. You might also consider it to be a singing version of "Saturday Night Live" skits.
Except not all the humor in the mocking operas is as broad as contemporary popular farce. On Feb. 9, for instance, in the middle of Anchorage Opera's production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," the Dark Night will include Samuel Barber's troubling, snarky "A Hand of Bridge."
From the same composer who penned the beloved "Adagio for Strings," this mini-novella ranks among the finest musical masterworks by any American. But it seldom receives a live staging, mainly because of it's awkward brevity.
"It's exactly what the title says," Sweeney explained. "Two couples are playing a game of bridge during which they reveal their hidden desires, their miserable lives, put to good music."
The other good thing about the Dark Night shows is the cost. "Bon Appetit," for instance, was previously performed here for a limited audience as at a pricey fund-raising dinner.
"It cost $100 a plate last time," said Sweeney. "This time it's $15."
Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.