Opera in Focus

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William B. Fosser's puppet production Opera in Focus is a troupe which performs opera and musical theater with some of the world's most sophisticated puppets.

History[edit]

Fosser, a puppeteer and artistic director of the legendary Kungsholm Miniature Opera in Chicago, began designing the puppets that would eventually be used in his Opera in Focus productions in the late 1930s. The cost involved in building each elaborately articulated puppet prevented him from constructing them until 1956. He presented the first Opera in Focus performances—by invitation only—in 1958 in a rented store on the north side of Chicago, where they were received with great enthusiasm.

Opera In Focus
Pagliacci

In order to support the puppet opera, Fosser made a living as a set designer and art director in the motion picture industry, working on such films as Ordinary People, Home Alone, Backdraft, Weird Science, Music Box, Damien: Omen II, The Breakfast Club, A League of Their Own and Groundhog Day. He also worked as a set designer for live theatrical productions, designing scenery for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as the Candlelight, Ivanhoe, and Drury Lane theaters. He spent his free time further developing and perfecting his puppets and the presentation of his elaborate miniature operatic productions. Due to the hectic nature of his career in the film industry, performances of Opera in Focus were infrequent, except for periods in 1962-1963 and 1978-1979 when Opera in Focus enjoyed residencies in Detroit and at the now-defunct Magic Pan restaurant in Chicago.

In 1993 the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce offered Fosser a permanent home in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, where Opera in Focus has been performed weekly ever since.[1][2]

In 2005 Fosser received the President's Award from the Puppeteers of America. Opera in Focus has received a number of awards including the prestigious Dorothy Mullen Award from the National Parks and Recreation Association for Fine Arts Programming.

William Fosser died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia on February 19, 2006, in Resurrection Hospital. He was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.[3]

In 2010 the theater continues to present a stunning sampling of fully staged scenes from well-known operas & musicals. Each hour-long performance may offer between three and five scenes, depending on the length of the individual segments. A narration of the action by the well-known actor, Tony Mockus, precedes each scene. The 16" puppets are manipulated from below the stage floor and are capable of very lifelike action and dramatic gestures for which opera singers are so famous.

A demonstration of the puppet operation and a tour of the highly technical backstage area follow each performance. Despite the small stage (only five feet wide and two feet deep), the illusion of live opera prevails. The puppet opera performances are capable of charming a wide range of audiences - from the lovers of opera and musical theater to those simply fascinated by the fine art of puppetry.

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