Renegade Opera comes to Sand Point: Group brings a new kind of 'rock opera' that organizers assure everyone will enjoy

Renegade Opera brings a spectacle of dancers, singers, musicians and even martial artists to Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci," which comes to Magnuson Park on Feb. 10 through 12.

The group brings a new approach to opera while maintaining its integrity, hoping to attract a broader audience, including people who have not previously been exposed to opera.

"If you've never been to opera before, this is the one to go to," said Greenwood resident Todd Dunnigan, Renegade Opera's musical director.

"We're pretty confident that just about everyone will enjoy it," added Mark Power, Renegade Opera's artistic director.

A mix of tradition, contemporary

For its upcoming production, the group's first, most of the singing will be in English, and contemporary synthesizers will mix with more traditional instruments to give the opera more of a modern, jazz-rock feel, they say.

"If we help [the audience] to feel the groove that is inherently there, I think they'll enjoy it more," Dunnigan said.

"We love the intensity and passion of opera," Power added. "Our thing is opera that rocks."

The production will include more than 40 chorus members and dancers of all ages, as well as an orchestra of 10. A ballroom-dance troupe from Lake City, as well as some martial artists, will open the show.

"A community of people really pulled together to make this happen," Dunnigan explained.

A challenging production

"I Pagliacci," is a short, hour-and-a-half opera in two acts. In the first act, a troupe of actors arrives at a village. Before the troupe performs, Nedda, the lead female, laments about her husband, Pagliacco, and the gypsy acting life.

She also reveals that she has a lover, Sylvio. The husband learns of the affair and pressures Nedda to tell him who her lover is.

In Act Two, the troupe puts on a comedy, which happens to mirror reality and the husband's aggravation grows.

Linda Mattos, a regular in the Seattle Opera Chorus, will play the roles of Nedda and Columbina."The music is very moving, and I like the different sort of styles of music," she said. "Stylistically, there's a lot of challenges."

Power plays the lead tenor in "I Pagliacci." He developed a love for opera in Los Angeles years ago, when he started bartering martial arts lessons for voice lessons. He has since performed in a number of operas in New York and California, and more recently in Seattle in the leading role of Joe Bean in "Joe Bean, a Rock Fable" and at Benaroya Hall in the role of Gabriel in "The Song of Luke."

"I've sung nothing but opera for years," Power said.

In addition to opera, Power has vocal experience in a variety of musical genres including opera, pop, R&B, sacred music and musical theater. He is also a black belt in the martial art of Hapkido, which he teaches in Queen Anne.

Dunnigan has been a professional musician since he was 15 years old, performing with such artists as Smokey Robinson and Built to Spill. Most nights he works as a dueling pianist in lower Queen Anne. His first opera production only happened last year.

"I Pagliacci" runs Feb. 10 through 12 at Theatre 47 in Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E. Tickets are $10 to $35; go to www.brownpapertickets. com or the box office for show times.

Renegade Opera plans to perform "Hansel and Gretel" later this year.

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