By Chunyan Zhou and Henry Etzkowitz
BY GEORGES: A Day in the Life of the Legendary Chevalier de Saint-Georges was presented by Lamplighters Music Theatre, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View (May 20, 7:30 PM)
San Francisco’s Lamplighters Music Theatre is marking its 70th anniversary by
presenting a commissioned stage play on the same subject, a first for the distinguished
Gilbert & Sullivan company, thrilled to present the first production from their operetta
commission project. The first known classical composer of African descent, the
Chevalier was the head of the Paris Opera and Symphony, a virtuoso violinist, AND an
expert swordsman. They present a one act comedic operetta depicting him on a single
day at the height of his powers and challenges.
Lamplighters saw an important opportunity to create new roles in the genre of operetta,
specifically for Black artists. “By Georges! A Day in the Life of the Legendary Chevalier
de Saint-Georges” tells the story of Joseph Bologne, the unique 18th-century Black
virtuoso violinist, composer, conductor, and swordsman. Chevalier St. Georges,
performed by Omari Tau, truly reveals the richness and beauty of his baritone voice.
Krista Wigle performs Mme de Sac d’Argent, showing her mature singing skills and
acting talent, once more.
Martin T. Bell (acting as Alexandre Dumas) says it’s rare to play a role written
specifically for someone who looks like him (he is Black), and he thanked Lamplighters
for “leading the way in operetta.” In addition to its immediate pleasures, “By Georges!”
represents the beginning of an answer to a ticklish question: How long can
organizations like Lamplighters, built around the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and
their few relevant colleagues (Johann Strauss, Franz Lehár) continue to thrive on the
same small body of work? — Joshua Kosman
Prolific Composer. Violin prodigy. Sword and Fencing master. Commander of the first all Black Legion. Seminal figure in the French and Haitian revolutions. Rumored lover to Marie Antoinette. Mentor to a young Thomas-Alexander Dumas, father of the famed writer. Inspiration to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Polymath. Genius. And so much more. This was the fascinating story.
As human beings, historical figures do have an unpleasant side, but what will future
generations see? Looking back on history, there is information to warn or enlighten future generations. Today we continue to have serious racial issues, upgrading from national to the
international/global level. What enlightenment does this work have to share and how will it impact? Seeing this was meaningful and impactful.