The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

Champagne and Candlelight is a company
that’s serious about opera.

In past seasons they’ve brought us both well known pieces like
Gilbert and Sullivan’s "Iolanthe" and Kurt Weill’s
"Three-penny Opera," as well as lesser known works
like Weill’s "Street Scene," a musical adaptation of
Elmer Rice’s play by the same name.

Now, the company is digging into the positively obscure – "Zaide,"
an unfinished early work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and "La
Serva Pedronna," a seminal but seldom performed work by
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, an eighteenth century Neapolitan
composer who wrote 13 operas including "The Maid as Mistress,"
most of which are lost, and lots of church music.

Both operas will be staged in the Chapel Theater at the First
Unitarian Church with a minimum of props and scenery. Singers
will be dressed in period costumes and accompanied by Taya Shumerina
on piano.

The company’s founder, David Yin, an opera aficionado who has
studied at the Mannes College of Music and the Opera Workshop,
directs "Zaide."

"It’s about a sultan’s [William Heckel] favorite, Zaide
[Mila de Costa], who tries to escape from the harem with her
lover," Yin told GO Brooklyn. "She’s caught, but the
Sultan pardons her and her lover because the lover turns out
to have saved the sultan’s life 15 years ago." The role
of the lover is performed by Yin.

The libretto was written by Andreas Schachtner. Mozart finished
two-thirds of the opera before he was called to Munich to write
"Idomenco," his first substantial opera. He never went
back to "Zaide," and Champagne and Candlelight has
further abridged the unfinished opera to a very manageable 35

"La Serva Pedronna" is directed by Nick Titakis, who
has performed off-Broadway, on national tours, in opera and in

"The opera is way over the top farce," said Titakis.
"There are only three characters, and only two sing."
Those characters are a gentleman (Titakis), his maid (Kathy Titakis)
and a mute valet (Paul Eisemann).

"The gentleman is a buffoon. His valet and his maid have
him twisted around their fingers," Titakis explained. "He’s
a miser and the maid is a spendthrift. He’s sure she’s sending
him into poverty. He can’t decide whether to keep her or let
her go. Then the mute servant gets the brilliant idea he will
come as a prince wooing the maid so the gentleman will get jealous
and propose marriage."

According to Titakis, "La Serva Pedronna" belongs to
a body of work called congrega de rozzi, which means "group
of fools" – work that was "lighthearted and spoofy
and depicted peasants and farmers poking fun at each other."
Congrega de rozzi began in southern Italy and was very influential
in the development of commedia dell’arte.

When "La Serva Pedronna" was staged in Paris in 1752,
it became something of a cause celebre because it was the first
example of comedic opera and also because it depicted for the
first time real people and not mythological characters, said

"It created a fervor," Yin said. "And it was directly
responsible for [influencing] composers who followed, like Gluck
and Mozart."

Champagne and Candlelight will be staging Pergolesi’s entire
50-minute-long opera, with only rudimentary scenery and props.
Titakis says this production’s minimal scenery and the limited
space of the chapel are representative of the way the opera was
originally presented.

"The opera was certainly not performed in a theater when
it was written," he said. "It was performed in homes
or small concert halls."

Champagne and Candlelight performs Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 –
28 at 8 pm. The Chapel Theater is located at The First Unitarian
Church, 50 Monroe Place at Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights.
Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and students. For reservations,
call (718) 596-3882.