Showing posts with label Alok Kumar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alok Kumar. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2017

Celebrating "Men Behaving Badly" at OperaDelaware

(L-R): Grant Youngblood, Jeffrey Miller, Ben Wager,
Martin Hargrove, Alok Kumar. Photo courtesy of OperaDelaware.
The hubby and I spent Friday night out with a bunch of truly bad men...and loved every moment!

We attended OperaDelaware's quasi-new programming (it's a few seasons in, although some may not realize) Inside the Opera Studio. The program brings audiences up close and personal to well-known and (perhaps) lesser known — but equally captivating — works from productions both international and U.S. born, under a collective theme. This time, it was "Devils, Drunks and Dastardly Dudes."

OperaDelaware's second-floor rehearsal hall was set with large candlelit tables and rear platform seating facing a small stage under chandeliers, giving the entire night a personal, intimate feel.

Our four featured dastardly dudes were OperaDelaware stars Alok Kumar, Ben Wager, Martin Hargrove and Grant Youngblood in a showcase OperaDelaware General Director Brendan Cooke described as " behaving badly."

OperaDelaware Music Director Jeffrey Miller, who was accompanist and creator of the program, also served us well as the entertaining "Master of Ceremonies," introducing each piece with brevity and humor, providing background about the opera and its characters. I enjoyed his discussion, as it helped to set the mood of the performances and give us interesting notes about each piece.

The evening began with tenor Kumar in a selection from Verdi's Rigoletto, in which Miller noted, "The Duke is probably a drunk...but definitely a dastardly dude." I know little about opera, but will say that Kumar's voice was incredible and delivered the perfect power-packed start to the evening.

I will also note that bass Ben Wager has his 'devils' down pat — in works from Faust and Mefistofele, his voice not only conveys the proper dose of darkness, but his spot-on laugh and expression are so entertainingly chilling. "Ben seems to specialize in devils..." laughed Miller after one of Wager's performances. 

Wager and Hargrove also performed the provocative Ella giammai m'amo from Act 3, Scene 1 of Verdi's Don Carlo — what Miller called, " exaggeration; the greatest confrontation scene in opera."

Rigoletto gave me another favorite piece, this time from Youngblood and Hargrove — as Rigoletto and Sparafucile, respectively — in the duet Pari siamo!

Artfans who may not know much about opera or who think they may not like opera — these programs are right up your alley. They're the perfect informal (and enjoyably educational) introduction to many different styles, composers and stories.

Bravi, OperaDelaware! Next up for Inside the Opera Studio is the Ladies' Night program running March 3 through 5. Tickets available but seating is limited. 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Powerful, Raw & Visceral" - OperaDelaware's Sultry "Carmen" Hits A Nerve...and Is a Hit

(L-R): Audrey Babcock, Alok Kumar and Victoria Cannizzo star in La Tragedie de Carmen.
By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

OperaDelaware’s production of La Tragedie de Carmen is opera at its best: powerful, raw and visceral. Peter Brook et al. have crafted a stripped down version of Bizet’s classic that focuses on the fatal relationships between the gypsy, the soldier, the village girl and the bullfighter.

We all know the story: Carmen (Audrey Babcock) seduces the na├»ve soldier Don Jose (Alok Kumar) who is being pursued by the innocent Micaela (Victoria Cannizzo). Tragedy strikes when Carmen liases with the bullfighter Escamillo (Michael Mayes). The characters struggle with fate, love, infidelity and jealousy 
 and in true operatic fashion, most meet their fate by the time the curtain falls.

The opera is sung in French with English translations above the stage to help the audience follow the action.

The 1981 adaptation retains all of the musical treasures — albeit reordered 
 of the 1875 original: Carmen’s Habanera and Seguidilla, Don Jose’s Flower Song and Escamillo’s swaggering Toreador Song.

But gone are the cigarette girls, the children’s chorus and the other grand trappings of Bizet’s four-act Carmen. Brook’s hybrid — is it an opera? a play with music? 
 cuts Bizet’s work in half to about 80 minutes, delving into the visceral realism of Merimee’s novel.

The production’s stage design is equally economic: simple sets, lighting and costumes evoke the world of Carmen without distracting from the best part of the production: the singing.

Cannizzo, a soprano, sings with all the desperation and urgency one would expect of a lovesick innocent yet she never fails to fill the theatre with her lush, powerful voice. Too bad we only get to hear her at the beginning and end of Brook’s version.

Babcock, a mezzo-soprano making her OperaDelaware debut, possesses a voice that grabs you and compels you listen. Her voice suits Carmen perfectly; it is fiery, rich and sultry in a most convincing way.

Tenor Kumar sings as if his heart is breaking, evoking sympathy for his dupe of a character. Maybe he’s not as innocent as he seems, but he’s certainly no match for the morally depraved Carmen.

Mayes, also making his OperaDelaware debut, uses his deep, dominating baritone to supply Escamillo with enough sex appeal to balance Babcock’s seductive performance.

And Babcock does deliver one sexy performance. Her stage presence and movements are devilishly defiant, lighting up cigarettes only to blow smoke into the face of her rivals. She shamelessly flirts, only to discard a love interest when another strikes her fancy — even though she has a husband conveniently tucked away. And she is often seen sitting with her legs spread apart, her dress draping between them to maintain some sense of propriety. Now, all this is tame by today’s standards, but in the 19th Century, it was truly shocking.

Feminists may have latched onto Carmen as the epitome of a strong, sexually liberated woman, but Bizet makes it clear: sleep around and you pay the ultimate price.

Because of its brevity, accessible music and age-old plot of fate, love and jealousy, La Tragedie de Carmen gives the uninitiated a great introduction to the world of opera. For veteran opera goers, it offers a fresh look at a classic.

Monday, November 8, 2010

OperaDelaware’s La Traviata

Colleen Daly sang the role of Violetta in the Opera Delaware production of La Traviata on November 7 with graceful acting, poise and magical melismas which soared to daring heights of C and D-flat without straining.

From the haunting cello lines in the overture to the luscious ballgown Violetta was wearing in front of moveable dressing room mirrors, everything was smooth as silk. The mirrors rolled away to become windows in Violetta’s luxurious ballroom as she stifled her tubercular cough to become the hostess with the mostess. Her control melted as her admirer, Alfredo (sung with powerful passion by Alok Kumar) slowly became courageous enough to declare his love.

Kumar’s tenor was so rich that his tone remained round and full – resoundingly secure, even in passages where the orchestra was silent. He built in intensity from his shy brindisi, his happy bollenti spiriti, to his tortured che feci.

Maestro Mark Graf coordinated the solos, duets, trios, quartets with aplomb – and pulled a great performance out of both singers and orchestra, especially the Finale.

The duet between Germont (Brian Carter) and Violetta was incredibly gripping. Germont paced himself as he slowly built his arguments to convince Violetta to release her hold on his son. When he pulled his last trump card, telling Violetta that illicit love is bound to fade (Un di, quando le venere il tempo avra fugate), his voice was unctuous--fatherly but threatening with doom--and his song was punctuated perfectly by the strings. The clarinets, smooth and melodic throughout the opera, added poignancy to Piange, piange.

The lighting gave us the illusion that the moving mirrors had become windows with panes. That and the detailing of the costumes with showy petticoats and beautiful shiny materials just put a cherry on the top of a beautiful production. Next shows are November 12 and 13.