Promotional poster for Il Sogno

Ithaca, N.Y. — If you’ve never heard of the opera show “Il Sogno” before, that’s okay; it has only been produced twice. Opera Ithaca, an opera company that debuted last fall, will be putting on the third production ever in Ithaca next month.

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“Il Sogno,” pronounced eel-so-nyo, means “the dream” in Italian. It is an operatic Italian rendition of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” Zachary James, general director of Opera Ithaca, is the director of the production, which will show March 28 and 29 at the Lehman Alternative Community School theater.

Promotional poster for Il Sogno

American composer Kristin Hevner Wyatt wrote the opera while living in Italy, and it made its world premier in 2004 in Umbria, Italy, James said in an email. Its second production was in 2009 in New York City. James said he sang the role of Oberon in both productions, giving him a personal relationship with the piece.

James said “Il Sogno” is unique in part because Wyatt is a female composer.

“There are not many operas by female composers, really, at all,” James said. “I think that there is a female perspective in the writing which makes it very different than a lot of operas.”

James said Wyatt will also be in the audience in March, and having the composer present for the production is another rarity in the world of opera.

Opera Ithaca launched last October with “Bluebeard’s Castle”, an opera by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. James said choosing “Il Sogno” for Opera Ithaca’s second production is a bold move because it isn’t well known.

“No one knows the opera ‘Il Sogno’, but they do know ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’, so I’m really hoping that people get excited about seeing opera,” James said. “They can expect a really bold production because the design team is doing such beautiful work and it’s going to be really stunning to look at.”

Ithaca College students are included in the design team, the chorus and all the understudies for the lead roles, James said. James, an ’05 Ithaca College alumnus, said the production relies heavily on students, and that this will be an opportunity for them to participate in new work, rather than operas that have been around for a hundred years or more. With limited funding, he said this will be especially challenging for students.

“I say to my designers, ‘I have absolutely nothing to offer you, and I need you to create magic,’” James said. “The right designers say, ‘oh, that’s so exciting,’ because it’s a challenge to them to create something out of nothing.”

This has resulted in another interesting aspect of the production; James said Ithaca College senior Anna Grigo is designing Elizabethan costumes from recycled paper.

“In this world where need to think green, theatrical design can be very, very wasteful,” James said. “I’m proud to say that we are not wasting anything, we’re in fact recycling and reusing materials to create magic on stage.”

James said low funds are no excuse for creating a lackluster set. Opera Ithaca receives all its funds from ticket sales, he said, and has gained nonprofit status to receive donations.

Opera Ithaca is partnering with the Ithaca Shakespeare Company to put on a preview event at 2 p.m. on March 1 at Cinemapolis. Opera Ithaca and the Ithaca Shakespeare Company will perform selections from “Il Sogno” and “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” respectively. In addition, there will be a showing of Charles Kent’s 1909 silent film, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” Tickets for the preview are $5.

From a previous Opera Ithaca production

Opera Ithaca is already looking ahead to future productions. According to the company’s website, W.A. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is scheduled for this summer, John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera” for the fall and Philip Glass’s “The Juniper Tree” for Spring 2016.

“It’s a really special thing, as a new company, to be able to produce these modern works,” James said. “We don’t just want to do what every other opera company is doing. We want to keep opera relevant and we want to build a new audience.”

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