El Capitan: Sousa at the Opera House?

by John Birge, Minnesota Public Radio
October 6, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Wait a minute: John Philip Sousa was The March King, yes? "Stars and Stripes Fovever" and "The Liberty Bell," right?

Of course right! But Sousa wasn't all bands and marches. He also wrote five novels, was a champion trapshooter ("Let me say that just about the sweetest music to me is when I call, 'pull,' the old gun barks, and the referee in perfect key announces, 'dead'") and he wrote fifteen operettas, very much in the Gilbert & Sullivan style.

The best known -- and the funniest -- of them is El Capitan. It was a huge success in 1896, and it comes to life again for the 2010 season opener with the VocalEssence chorus. Artistic director Philip Brunelle and stage director Vern Sutton have performed it many times before, and their affection was contagious when they joined tenor Bradley Greenwald in the studio at Classical Minnesota Public Radio for a sneak preview.


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