Sasha Gerritson Brings Operetta to the Department of Music

Rut Ortiz, News Editor

Photo by Sheryl Walter
NEIU World Languages and Cultures professor Susan Boldrey and freshman performer Erica Bland.

NEIU recently experienced a musical dynamic known as operetta in La Vie Parisienne, a genre of light opera by composer Jacques Offenbach.

La Vie Parisienne, presented by the NEIU Department of Music and directed by music instructor Sasha Gerritson, brought with it a look into the lives of characters living in Paris during the 1920s.

“Most traditional operas are longer in length, more serious or dramatic in content and have little or no spoken dialogue,” said Gerritson. “Operettas, like our show, tend to be comic in nature and had spoken lines in between just about every song.”

The operetta is the bridge between traditional opera and the modern day musical theater, according to Gerritson.

Both French and English were used to tell of a 1920s Parisian lifestyle, consisting of dinner parties, masquerade balls, cancan dancers, a Brazilian billionaire and a rich Baron from Boston.

“Language has to be connected to culture,” said Dr. Susan Boldrey, professor of World Languages at NEIU and NEIU Alumna. “This is a major piece; Jacques Offenbach is a major composer in France and people know his music.”

La Vie Parisienne was originally written in French, but translated into English with hints of French dialogue here and there. This adaptation included English supertitles overhead so that audience members would know exactly what was being said.

NEIU freshman Fernando Roman said that La Vie Parisienne was his first experience with opera. “[Students] should experience a production like this because even students who have never attended one may like it,” said Roman.

One of four leading ladies of the operetta and NEIU freshman, Erica Bland, would like to see a cultural piece such as this one return to NEIU in the future. Bland began singing classical music at 12 years old, and played the role of Pauline.

“I think [people] should try anything once. Northeastern presents amazing opportunities for students to get that kind of experience for free,” said Bland.

“We do full productions like this every year, myself as the director for seven years and my predecessor for 34 years before that,” said Gerritson.