‘The Man of La Mancha’: Knight in Shining… Rags?

Saturday, Jan. 21 marks the opening night of Utah Opera’s “Man of La Mancha.” A classic hero’s tale, “Man of La Mancha” involves a lead who is not your classic hero. In fact, he’s a tax collector, one of the most hated professions in his time; and he tries to tax the church.

He is, unsurprisingly, thrown in jail and put on trial by his fellow prisoners. It is there that he must recount the tale of his most prized possession, a manuscript for his novel “Don Quixote.”

In this tale within a tale, Cervantes, the outer story’s tax collector, who also plays Don Quixote, does many heroic deeds with his faithful servant Sancho Panza. They pontificate on the values of fighting against evil and embodying chivalry. They rescue a serving maid from her customers and, naturally, Don Quixote falls in love with her. They fight an epic duel before finally coming across a whole host of interesting characters including a doctor, a padre and a traveling barber.

Alexandra Camastro is currently a part of this production’s ensemble. It will mark her first show with Utah Opera. She talks about the “dream team” comprised of Paul Curran, director, and Kyle Lang, assistant director. Curran has arranged the show with the ensemble onstage the entire production. Camastro says this is particularly wonderful because the actors are “all experiencing the story with the audience members.”

“Don Quixote” has been a ballet, movie, opera, musical and straight play. It’s a story full of interesting and funny characters that capture the hearts of audiences. The musical structure is different from other versions; it begins with a normal man who is down on his luck and steps into the role of the valiant knight. As Camastro said, “This gives the character a crucial and relatable personage for the audience.”

Having lasted through ages and now turned into a modern musical, “Man of La Mancha” contains humor, love, tragedy and loss. For Don Quioxte, dreams are not impossible.

Performances will run through Jan. 29, at Capitol Theatre, with one matinee at 2 p.m. on its final day. Opera singers do not sing nightly. Tickets can be purchased here: http://my.usuo.org/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=15860.