Press Room

For Press Inquiries, contact Camille Cintrón Devlin, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications at 703-993-8794 or


October 18, 2007
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

For general information about tickets, seating, parking, etc., for performances and events happening at the Center for the Arts, please contact the ticket office directly at 703-993-2787.

THE VIRGINIA OPERA’S production of
Friday, Nov. 30, 2007 at 8 p.m.
& Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007 at 2 p.m.

• The original hilarious opera/musical – often imitated, never duplicated
• Return of powerhouse "Mikado" comedy trio: Stage Director William Theisen, tenor Gary Briggle as the Major General, soprano Alicia Berneche as Mabel
• Long-awaited company debut of Richmond-native and Metropolitan Opera veteran tenor William Ferguson as Frederic


FAIRFAX, Va., Oct. 18, 2007 – Virginia Opera takes seriously its role as the very model of a modern major regional opera company, and is proud to present next month its first-ever traditional production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s ever-popular comic operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance," with all the high-spirited British humor and delightful music that has made it an audience favorite for more than a century. The opera comes to the stage of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on Friday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. A pre-performance discussion is held 45-minutes prior to each performance on the Center’s Grand Tier.

Returning in the stage director’s chair is the jovial William Theisen, who staged Virginia Opera’s 2001 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s "The Mikado," which was praised as “visually sumptuous” by The Washington Post in a glowing review that began: “Having seen the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan transported to Harlem, tarted up with American political jargon and otherwise tweaked, it was something of a relief to come upon Virginia Opera’s gloriously traditional rendering of ‘The Mikado’ …”

Theisen additionally directed the company’s well-received Gilbert and Sullivan production of "H.M.S. Pinafore" in 1998 and Mozart’s "Magic Flute" in 2003.

Also returning to Virginia Opera is tenor Gary Briggle as the Major-General and soprano Alicia Berneche as Mabel. “Gary Briggle’s Ko-Ko was a delight from first appearance,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch review of "The Mikado," while the Virginian-Pilot gave Berneche kudos for her “delightful Yum-Yum.”

Returning home to make his Virginia Opera debut in the role of Frederic is Richmond-native William Ferguson, whose sought-after tenor voice has been heard at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera and at the famed Sydney Opera House with Opera Australia. It was Virginia Opera, however, that first inspired his operatic career: “Here was something so beautiful to watch and beautiful to hear ... it completely took me,” said Ferguson of his first experience with opera at the age of 15 – a performance of the company’s 1998 "Il Trovatore" production.

Also making their exciting company debuts are two other Gilbert and Sullivan veterans: tenor Dominic M. Aquilino as the Pirate King and contralto Myrna Paris as Ruth. Aquilino received rave reviews for his performances of the role at Opera Cleveland and Dayton Opera, while a New York Times review of New York City Opera’s production earlier this year praised Paris for her “considerable clarity” as Ruth, having called her a “standout” and “a rich, comfortable contralto” in previous reviews.

All performances will be conducted by Virginia Opera Assistant Artistic Director and Associate Conductor Joseph Walsh, who conducted last season’s highly acclaimed Virginia premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s American opera, "Susannah."

"The Pirates of Penzance" will be sung in English with Digitext Supertitles projected above the stage. The estimated performance running time, including an intermission, is one hour and 54 minutes.

PNC is the 2007-08 Season Sponsor for Great Performances.

Tickets for Virginia Opera’s Pirates of Penzance are $86, $72, $44 (Friday), and $94, $78, $48 (Sunday). Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K. Visit

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT MASON is a program of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, the professional presenting arm of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.

About George Mason University

George Mason University, located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and health care, Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason’s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Its School of Law is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 35 law schools in the United States.