A Night at the Apollo Opera
by Brad Benedict
The LSU Assembly Center on Jan. 22 was the setting for the eighteenth annual Mardi Gras Bal Masque for the Krewe of Apollo Baton Rouge. "A Night At The Opera, or It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings!" brought out the very best in this group of talented and hard-working guys.
First of all, I have to say that the Krewe Color Guard was the best ever and was definitely a spectacular and impressive sight, and the addition of an orchestra and vocal interpretations made for a superior show. The Krewe of Apollo Opera Orchestra was under the direction of Louis Wendt, Director/Conductor and Cason Duke, Orchestra Manager. The three vocalists were Georges "Beau" Nolen (tenor), Karen Schowalter Jensen (mezzo-soprano), and Jane Redding Marrero (coloratura soprano).
With the entrance of the captains (Joe and Les) and the reigning royalty, King Apollo XVII (Sam) and Queen Apollo XVII (Jim) at the opera, the show got under way. And it got under way in great fashion by Tony, Jeannie and their boys. "Aida and Radames" were magnificent, but it's only fitting when you have two of the nation's top dancers performing. "Turnadot" signaled another great costume by one of Apollo's most creative minds. Pat may have surpassed his previous efforts and even brought in Spencer and Ken to help make this one so impressive.
"Diva Plavalaguna" (from "The Fifth Element") was Kiley's contribution to the show, and this young man did a fabulous job, but then he strives for excellence in everything he undertakes. Believe it or not, he performed on roller blades and put together a costume that could well have been obtained directly from the movie. It was perfect in every way even when that skirt got in his way.
"Escamillo" was a nice one too and signaled the return of Alan to the krewe. This young man was also King Shangrai-la this year, so he has worn two hats and done so in a very nice way. Following him was a dynamic "Carmen" (Kenny), a former queen of Apollo and one of the most creative and outstanding members of the krewe. "Il Pagliacci" saw King Apollo XVI (Damon) doing an interpretation of this opera with his facial make-up being done to perfection by local personality, Polka Dot, the Clown. "Il Trovatore" presented Curtis in a wonderful and fascinating dance number. The gypsy world will never be the same in my estimation.
"La Cenerentola" was a group effort, from a giant shoe to a cute carriage. They filled the stage with their presence. Next up was "The Flying Dutchman," and no one but Ken could have come up with such a backpiece. Last year he brought the Deep South back into all its former glory with a magnificent costume, but this year, he made it "two in a row." He and significant other Mark are the creative minds here, and working together they've come up with two of my all-time favorite costumes. They match anything I've seen in any of the balls around the state. That's talent and originality, a great combination.
"Salome" (Joe) came from Beaumont, but she took over the stage with all those veils. She was followed by Steve and Keith as the "Dueling Divas." Next was another spectacular presentation as only Patrick could accomplish. "Mefistofeles" was the darkest of all the numbers, but the participants did their part to make this one of the best in the show. I loved those black creatures, nude except for that black goo all over them. The removal process was also exciting.
Not to be outdone was Todd as "Jesus Christ Superstar." This beautiful young man did an excellent job, and the costume was spectacular. "Madame Butterfly" (Scott) was one of the prettiest, but here again, the krewe has a member who has an eye for beauty and a talent for bringing it to life. He was great.
When the fat woman ("Die Wallkure"/Darren) arrived on the scene, people were on their feet cheering. This signaled the ultimate presentations of the evening, Nathan (King Apollo XVIII as Oberon, "King of the Fairies") and Joel (Queen Apollo XVIII as Queen of the Night, "Magic Flute").
This spectacular ending to a fabulous bal masque was only missing one thing. That was compassion and understanding of a situation, which the management at LSU apparently had no comprehension of or do they even care to understand. They turned on the lights and started removing the tables before the ball was over, a distraction that was inexcusable and definitely a mark of stupidity on their part.
The show did go on and honored guests were announced followed by the grand march and open court. With all due respect to everyone concerned, let me state that the ball did start late. It was long and did carry over past midnight, which no one can fault the university for, but the moronic action of these workers does not do honor to a great institution when they show such a lack of wisdom and understanding. It was totally inexcusable, and all individuals involved, especially the person in charge, should be called to task for their action.
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