Maybe you missed Mardi Gras. Or you didn't get the baby in the King cake. Now the Washington National Opera gives you a spectacular chance to enjoy Mardi Gras like never before in Songbird, their recreation of Offenbach’s operetta, La Périchole starring Isabel Leonard and Ramin Karimloo. A Washington audience favorite, Leonard has starred in WNO’s productions of Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Barber of Seville and last season’s acclaimed Bizet’s Carmen

Songbird owes its creation to the Pandemic when Francesca Zambello, then artistic director at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York, instituted “Glimmerglass on the Grass” featuring shorter outdoor, appropriately distanced productions. Isabel Leonard suggested La Périchole for this program, and Zambello assembled a team to adapt it for modern audiences. 

The original operetta, La Périchole, concerns a pair of starving street singers in Lima, Peru. They desperately want to get married, but even more desperately long for a square meal. When the Spanish Viceroy propositions the girl, she agrees to go with him to his palace in exchange for food—the excuse for the famous tipsy aria, “Ah quel dîner!” Spoiler alert, it all ends well, except for the Viceroy who is exposed as a fool.

Photo Credit: Scott Suchman

Songbird transports the characters from Lima to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The Viceroy becomes the crooked Mayor of New Orleans. James Lowe's reorchestration of Offenbach’s music mixes in elements of ragtime, zydeco, and swing. The WNO production of Songbird takes place in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater where a nine-piece on-stage band gives it the feel of an intimate jazz club.

3-time Grammy winner Isabel Leonard studied at the Joffrey ballet and sings and dances her way through this delightful romp. She co-stars with Tony Award nominated leading man Ramin Karimloo (Les Misérables) at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater from March 9-23.

Adaptation created by Eric Sean Fogel, James Lowe, and Kelley Rourke
Musical arrangement and orchestration by James Lowe
English lyrics and book by Kelley Rourke
Based on La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach, Henri Meilhac, and Ludovic Halévy
In French and English with Projected English Titles 
Commissioned by The Glimmerglass Festival, 2021

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