Manhasset’s Rebecca Rutkovsky Stars in ‘Iolanthe’

Manhasset’s Rebecca Rutkovsky is starring in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Iolanthe,” a new production of the classic comic opera, presented by the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island in multiple locations, including Port Washington.

The Light Opera Company is one of Long Island’s oldest cultural institutions, celebrating its 70th season;  Rutkovsky, a soprano who’s active on Long Island’s musical scene, has been a company member since 2022, and was most recently seen as the title character in last season’s “Princess Ida.”  She plays a leader in a band of fairies who come into conflict with the Lord Chancellor of England when he accidentally offends the Fairy Queen by refusing to allow the marriage of a ward in Chancery to a humble shepherd who is secretly a fairy’s son.

Iolanthe is one of the most beloved of all the Gilbert & Sullivan operas, especially for its perfect balance of words and music, humor and drama, magic and political satire.  The current production, directed by Gayden Wren, with music directed by Isabella Eredita Johnson and David Bernard, is the Light Opera Company’s first since 2015.

In the opera, a humble shepherd, Strephon, has the unusual problem of being half fairy and half mortal … his mother was a fairy, his unknown father a mortal, and he’s a fairy down to the waist, though his legs are mortal.  When Strephon falls in love with Phyllis, a ward in chancery sought after in marriage by half the House of Lords, it sets up a conflict between the wily Lord Chancellor and the cosmically powerful Fairy Queen.

The dramatic side of the story involves Strephon’s mother, Iolanthe, who was sentenced to death for marrying a mortal, then reprieved at the last moment and banished from the fairy world.  Her greatest concern is for her son, and when the Lord Chancellor himself falls in love with Phyllis, Iolanthe faces a dilemma that may spell the end of her immortal life.

In the new production of the opera, Kara Vertucci of Lindenhurst plays Phyllis and Henry Horstmann of Lindenhurst plays Strephon, with Traci Weisberg Gang of Rego Park playing Iolanthe. Chris Jurak of Brightwaters is the Lord Chancellor, with Kenneth L. Kopolovicz of East Islip and Richard Risi of Locust Valley playing, respectively, Lord Mountararat and Lord Tolloller. Ben Salers of Northport plays Private Willis, with Delaney R. Page as the Fairy Queen. Farah Chandu of Oakland Gardens plays Leila, Rebecca Rutkovsky of Manhasset play Celia and Hanna Roth of Upper Brookville plays Fleta. The director is Gayden Wren, and the music directors are Isabella Eredita Johnson and David Bernard. David Bernard, who is also Music Director of the
Massapequa Philharmonic and the Eglevsky Ballet, will lead the full orchestra in these productions.

“Iolanthe is everything at once,” said Wren, a longtime member of the company and also the author of an acclaimed book about Gilbert & Sullivan. “It’s a goofy slapstick comedy, a whimsical fantasy, a political satire and a drama of Shakespearean proportions, and it swings from one to another so gracefully that it seems perfectly natural.”

The score for Iolanthe is arguably Sullivan’s greatest, ranging from the jaw-breaking patter of the Lord Chancellor’s famous “Nightmare Song” to the romantic duet “None Shall Part Us” from the swaggering “March of the Peers”; to the keen-edged “When Britain Really Ruled the Waves,” offering literally something for everyone.

“It’s really Gilbert & Sullivan at their best,” concluded Wren, who admitted that it’s his personal favorite of the operas. “The real magic isn’t the invisible fairies or the hypnotic spell they cast, it’s Gilbert, Sullivan and the way that they seem to come together so closely that it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other leaves off. It’s one of the greatest works of musical theater ever written.”

He added that Rutkovsky is at her best in the current production. “From directing her in ‘Princess Ida,’ I knew Rebecca had a great voice,” Wren said, “but I had no idea how funny she could be. Her Celia is a comic gem, a forever-17-year-old who happens also to have supernatural powers.  It’s a great portrayal, and I couldn’t be happier to have her in the show.”

Iolanthe will be presented on Saturday, June 22, at 8 p.m. at the Bayway Arts Center, 265 East Main Street in East Islip; on Sunday, June 23, at 3 p.m. at the Star Theater at the Suffolk Y/JCC, 75 Hauppauge Road in Commack; on Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m. at the Jeanne Rimsky Theater at the Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main Street in Port Washington; and on Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. at the Madison Theatre at Molloy University, 1000 Hempstead Avenue in Rockville Centre. Admission is $30, seniors and students $25.  For further information, call (516) 619-7415 or visit

Information courtesy of David Bernard.

Just Getting Started

Kevin James Thornton’s super second act

By Amanda Olsen • May 10, 2024


Dining guide-spring
  • No events