Showing posts with label OperaDelaware. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OperaDelaware. Show all posts

Friday, February 22, 2019

Three Delaware Organizations Receive $54,000 in Federal NEA Grants

The content of this post comes from a Delaware Division of the Arts press release...

As the only funder in the country to support arts activities in all 50 states and five U.S. jurisdictions, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that three Delaware organizations will receive $54,000 in federal grants. This is the first of two major grant announcements in fiscal year 2019 and includes three of the agency’s funding categories: Art Works and Challenge America to support projects by nonprofit organizations, and Creative Writing Fellowships. Through these grants, the National Endowment for the Arts supports local economies and preserves American heritage while embracing new forms of creative expression.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Delaware Shakespeare will receive a Challenge America grant in the amount of $10,000 to support a touring production of Romeo and Juliet, with related outreach activities. Proposed guest artist Lindsay Smiling will direct the production.

"Delaware Shakespeare is honored to be a recipient of an NEA Challenge America grant which will support our 2019 Community Tour production of Romeo and Juliet,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director of Delaware Shakespeare. “Our tours, bringing professional theatre to the full spectrum of humanity in our community by traveling to non-traditional venues such as prisons, homeless shelters, and mental health facilities, have been transformative for the organization and for audiences. The national recognition and support for this program from the NEA is a welcome affirmation for the vital necessity of this work."

OperaDelaware will receive an Art Works – Opera grant in the amount of $14,000 to support new productions of a new orchestral reduction of Derrick Wang's Scalia/Ginsburg and Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury as part of the 2018-19 festival.

"We are humbled to receive this support and incredible vote of confidence from the NEA for the fourth year in a row,” said Brendan Cooke, executive director of OperaDelaware. “This year's award allows us to bring Derrick Wang's wonderful opera, Scalia/Ginsburg to Wilmington, with the world premiere of a new orchestration of the work, crafted specifically for our orchestra and the magnificent Grand Opera House."

The State Education Agency Directors of Education (SEADAE), Delaware will receive an Art Works – Arts Education grant in the amount of $30,000 to support professional development training for teachers and teaching artists using the National Core Arts Standards as the basis for assessing student learning in the arts.

“It is a pleasure to be recognized by NEA regarding the work we do in ensuring equitable access to arts instruction across the country,” said Joyce Huser, SEADAE president and education program consultant, fine arts, Kansas State Department of Education. “Through the support of the NEA, all directors of the arts in state departments of education will receive the professional learning they need to support students and teachers across the country.”

The NEA Challenge America category primarily supports small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

Art Works is the NEA’s principal grantmaking program designed to support artistically excellent projects that celebrate our creativity and cultural heritage, invite mutual respect for differing beliefs and values, and enrich humanity.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Two Delaware Organizations Receive NEA Grant Awards

This post content courtesy of a press release from Delaware Division of the Arts...

Each year, more than 4,500 communities large and small throughout the United States benefit from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to nonprofits. 

For the NEA’s first of two major grant announcements of fiscal year 2018, more than $25 million in grants across all artistic disciplines will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These grants are for specific projects and range from performances and exhibitions, to healing arts and arts education programs, to festivals and artist residencies. 

Congratulations are in order to two distinctive Delaware organizations, both of whom will benefit from this round of NEA grants — OperaDelaware and Wilmington Renaissance Corporation.

OperaDelaware will receive an Art Works grant of $10,000 to support new productions of Puccini’s Il Trittico (The Triptych) and composer Michael Ching’s Buoso’s Ghost.

"We're delighted that the NEA has chosen to support our work for the third season in a row,” said OperaDelaware General Director, Brendan Cooke. “This grant will allow us to return to Wilmington’s Grand Opera House (which received a 2017 NEA Art Works grant) for the 2018 Spring Opera Festival which will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Puccini’s Il Trittico (The Triptych) and feature seven one-act operas over two weekends.”

The Wilmington Renaissance Corporation will receive a Challenge America grant of $10,000 to support the artist-led creation of a community public artwork.

“To receive this recognition and award from the NEA is an honor,” said Dr. Carrie W. Gray, managing director of Wilmington Renaissance Corporation. “We truly believe that the arts are an engine for community and neighborhood development. This is at the core of our Creative District initiative. Thanks to the NEA’s help, we will be able to continue to provide access to arts and culture programming to neighborhoods that will benefit from it. We look forward to sharing the details of our project with everyone soon.”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

OperaDelaware’s Spring Festival has become a valuable tradition

This post is provided courtesy of the original article from WHYY Newsworks...
OperaDelaware’s Spring Festival has become a valuable tradition, a highly anticipated event that draws opera buffs from well beyond the borders of the First State.

Last year’s inaugural event paired the East Coast premiere of Franco Faccio’s long-forgotten opera Amleto with a performance of Verdi’s Falstaff.

This year’s festival is dedicated to one composer only — Giaochino Rossini in celebration of the 225th anniversary of his birth. But this is no run-of-the-mill tribute as OperaDelaware has paired works that not only illustrate the serious and comic sides of this most influential composer but one — Semiramide— that rarely gets an outing.


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. 


Saturday, May 21, 2016

'Brilliant' debut of two Shakespearean operas in Delaware

Content of this post comes courtesy of an original review from WHYY Newsworks...

Photo courtesy of OperaDelaware.
Audiences who attended OperaDelaware's inaugural spring festival over the weekend became part of history as they took in the East Coast premiere of Franco Faccio's Hamlet and the Delaware professional premiere of Verdi's Falstaff.

The event marked the company's triumphant return to full-stage productions at Wilmington's Grand Opera House following a three-year absence.

Programming two Shakespearean operas is not only a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the Bard's legacy. It also explores the complex — and sometimes contentious — relationship between two composers, a librettist and their desire to raise Italian opera to a higher art form.

Verdi's last two operas "Otello" (1887) and "Falstaff" (1893) with librettos penned by Arrigo Boito were the closest he came to writing the kind of through-composed opera Wagner pioneered.


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 naïve 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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bloody Good Fun with CTC’s Bat Boy

Cast of Bat Boy taking their bows
One of the tightest productions you could see in Wilmington is playing at the Black Box of OperaDelaware Studios. Bat boy: the musical by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe is a hilarious romp of a rock musical which director Michael Gray and music director Joe Trainor managed to fit onto the tiny stagelet on the Riverfront. The stage was bare, but with a jungle gym background reminiscent of trees and forest in the rural hills of West Virginia. The play’s opening lets the bars of the jungle gym be the walls of a cave where our intrepid siblings find a boy/bat in a cave and capture him.

Of course, the rest of the musical revolves around the identification, education and sanitization of the Bat Boy, played brilliantly by Brendan Sheehan. Whether he is cramped in a cage or mauled by fans and foes, Sheehan comes through with shining colors. Every detail – from his crooning mimic of his fellow humans to his totally convincing adaptation of BBC received speech – is spot on.

The orchestra is also beautiful, although it, too, must remain caged behind a black backdrop to avoid their overpowering the singers. Yet, the cues are perfect and the singers and orchestra seemed melded together for harmony and dynamics thanks to an inventive webcam setup. Christopher Tolomeo and Robert Dilton had some brilliant keyboard licks (although we didn’t know who was on when).

The cast was superb and surreal, with several gender changes and an explosive conversion – from a Lily Tomlin-like, pursed-lipped crone turning into a jiving rocking sexed-up Pan in the name of love – a superb release of Adam Wahlberg’s real vocal power as Pan. Steve Weatherman was a powerhouse as a rural whining mother and Reverend Hightower plus several other roles into which he was able to slip in about five seconds, costume change included.

Dana Michael and Jenna Kuerzi are two tiny sprites who play spirited mother and teenaged daughter, respectively. They rock, shuck and jive with the oversized vigor of the energizer Bunny coming out of lithe and slender bodies. Those two and the rest of the cast, all of whom have incredible light and spark, managed to do all of their singing and dancing while swinging up and down their jungle gym bars as if born to it.

If you feel like you need a jolt of energy in these winter doldrum days – stop by the Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios before December 15!


Monday, November 5, 2012

OperaDelaware Opens Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci

Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Pietro Mascagni
Brendan Cooke has every right to be proud of his first production with OperaDelaware. Making your debut after a hurricane pummels through the neighborhood, disrupting practice and work is a challenge, but Cooke and his team did a great job. The set seemed just like a small Sicilian village and worked quite well visually, but how people walked on that slant and set up chairs on it is a mystery.

The set worked beautifully for the opening of Cavalleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascgani), with Lola and Turiddu ending their tryst upstage not seeing Santuzza downstage taking in the whole affair. Kara Shay Thomson as Santuzza has a very strong and expressive soprano voice. Her duets with both Turridu (John Pickle) and Alfio (José Sacin) showed the strength of all three singers who were easily able to be heard above the full orchestra. The flute, harp and horn accompaniments were delicate and beautifully executed.

As I Pagliacci begins, the four actors are on the apron while behind them, the inhabitants of the town freeze in position and are absolutely stock still while Tonio tells them about the show they will see in the evening. Not a hair moved and several players froze with legs in mid-swing and hands raised.

John Pickle was able to be a gentle and fickle lover in Cavalleria and changed to a violently jealous husband in I Pagliacci. His extremely dramatic and strong Pagliaccio non sono was where he gave his most compelling and gripping performance. And perhaps because of the complex texture of the Leoncavallo score to I Pagliacci the orchestra seemed to be more dramatic as well. Mark Ward played several soaring cello solos – especially for Pagliaccio’s forget all else. And the bassoon solos were smooth and haunting.

Susan Nelson as Nedda had the kind of voice and acting that had you glued to her. Her ability to sing the high notes and phrase beautifully were matched by her ability to sing no matter whether she was fighting, jumping or sprawled in her lover’s lap.

The orchestra played such a moving entreacte in I Pagliacci that the audience sighed when the curtain re-opened. But as the play within the play began, the trumpet (Frank Ferraro) solo was just terrific. Rong Tan played harp throughout each opera with intensely melodic phrasing and subtle shading.

This is a great production and well worth seeing. The next performances are Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poignant Porgy

When Thomas Blanchard’s crisp xylophone rhythms make you sit up straight and then groove, you know you are in for a strict but jazzy rendition of the original Porgy and Bess at OperaDelaware. Stuart Malina has made sure that the very talented orchestra has clear signals and he also gives them rein to do what they do best.

The opera, written by a white Jew from Brooklyn in the 1930s, has sometimes been labelled too pop and too white, but it is definitely a work written in formal and classical language to evoke, not imitate, the jazzy sound of Harlem and the black spirituals George Gershwin heard in his sojourn to the south as well as telling a story emphasizing the desperation of racism, poverty, discrimination and disability.

The duet between Richard Hobson (Porgy) and Janinah Burnett (Bess) is perhaps the best illustration of the classical structure of the opera. The soprano and baritone have the highest skills and training in vocal control and their voices are matched in strength and quality as they sing together in Bess, Yo’ is my woman now and they also have the stage presence and acting skills to sweep the audience into the romantic haven their relationship represents.

The evil character, Crown, (Martin Fisher) has a strong voice and oozes egoism, physical force and venom as he uses liquor, drugs, sex and murder against anyone who gets in his way. Bess tries in vain to resist his powerful sexuality and is doomed by her own desires and weakness.

Larry D. Hylton as Sportin’ Life has the long, lanky triple-jointed dancing legs of Fred Astaire and a voice made for his role. His string-bean thinness adds to the snaky image he manages to portray in the almost loveable gadfly of temptation. Hinton’s Ain’t necessarily so is a show in itself!

Stuart Malina’s conducting is energetic and lets the music flow – from the delightful English horn harmonies in Summertime played beautifully by Lloyd Shorter to Lynn Cooksey’s rhythmic piccolo, to Karen Schubert’s smooth horn to the mellow bass notes of Rose Vrbsky’s bassoon and Douglas Mapp’s double bass. The general orchestra volume can tend to overwhelm some of the singing, but nothing is lost in this production.

The set is also brilliantly designed and constructed for a quick scene change, transforming the Charleston street to indoors in a jiffy – brilliant coordination between designer Cindy DuPont Tobias and builder Robert Parker.

In short, this is a wonderful production and a great sendoff for the tireless Executive Director Leland Kimball. See it now – you won’t regret it. Sunday, May 6, Friday May 11 and Saturday May 12. Note: Friday’s performance has family ticket prices. 1-800-37-GRAND or 302-652-5577.


Monday, January 30, 2012

OperaDelaware Delivers with Oberto

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman

The Saturday, January 28, performance at the Grand of "Oberto" turned out to be an afternoon of thrilling opera. "Turned out to be" because an un-staged version of Verdi's very first, and almost never performed opera would not necessarily inspire great anticipation. Aida or Traviata anytime, or even Verdi's first hit Nabucco, but Oberto is just not on the radar. At age 26 Verdi must have felt the need to fulfill expectations for what popular opera was supposed to be, and indeed there is quite a bit of music that sounds like that famous opera composer of the preceding generation, Donizetti. But when the overture begins with a trumpet duet, and then later an aria is accompanied with cascading arpeggios from the bassoon, the listener discerns Verdi's originality in orchestration, so appreciated by opera players- I was one of these myself for many years. There are important roles, too, for trombones and tuba, not always heard in 1939 when Oberto was premiered.

So why was Oberto so successful yesterday? Wonderful performers! the cast, conductor, chorus, and orchestra. Credit is also due to the co-producers, OperaDelaware and Philadelphia's renowned opera training school, the Academy of Vocal Arts for conceiving of this unique collaboration, a highly satisfying approach to Verdi's neglected first opera. For this concert version, the cast was in formal attire rather than costumes, the large-by-opera-standards orchestra right behind them on stage, the modern convenience of supertitles added much (English with the singing in Italian), and there was also the minimal though complete staging, i.e. acted-out interactions among the five main characters  which made for clear story-telling.

The excellent chorus was a combination of OperaDelaware's own, along side AVA students. They entered and exited as the story required, standing behind the second violins. The four large roles and one smaller one were sung by the greatly talented AVA artists-in-training who already possess big mature voices, with the intensity of fine acting to match. When the curtain calls arrived, it seemed that soprano Michelle Johnson had truly captured the hearts of her listeners, due in part to the conflicted and pathetic vulnerability of her character, Leonora, who, prior to the events depicted, had been seduced and then abandoned by the tenor, Riccardo. The mezzo, Cuniza, is now his fiancee, but becomes Leonora's greatest advocate, via opera's penchant for the absurd yet dramatic. Leonora's father Oberto, the baritone, chooses his passion for revenge rather than entering a briefly open doorway to offering forgiveness, while Cuniza's servant Imelda, played by mezzo Sasha Hashemipour had some beautiful lines to sing, though a bystander to the overblown preoccupations of her employer's circle.

Michelle Johnson possesses a voice of rich timbre which retains its focus and color in the highest register. Verdi's daring two-octave descents revealed an exceptionally strong and expressive low range as well- she has it all. The huge voice of Margaret Mezzacapa who played Cuniza was equally gripping, and her acting matched Johnson's intensity. It was only her character's role as an intermediary among the other principals which limited her effect on the audience. Musa Ngqungwana as Leonora's father Oberto was a strong baritone, whose character starts out wounded, searching for relief. But when his vengeful passion, ultimately leading to his own death, finds its full flower, Ngqungwana gripped the listeners with the force of his character's emotion. Tenor William Davenport, who was having his only shot at performing the role which was rotating through 3 tenors in 4 performances, came off powerfully as Riccardo, a confused young man, first swayed by romance, then by an advantageous betrothal, and tragically by the challenge to duel Oberto, a much older man whom he knew he would in effect murder. Davenport has a Pavaratti-like timbre, as well as many of the affects of an Italian opera tenor. He was a convincing bad-guy, while perhaps not quite convincing us that such a character is as human as the rest of us, not an easy task in many a 19th century opera role.

Another advantage afforded by the concert format was a clear view of conductor Christofer Macatsoris, who is also the general music director for AVA. Without cover of the usual orchestra pit, we could see the drama in his every gesture, the way his baton goes from hand to hand, his expressive fingers and wrists doing much of the work. His involvement with the singers is constant, also finding occasion to cajole lines ascending from the depths of the 'cello section. Macatsoris tensile strength might seem his most prominent feature, still he delights in the airy gestures of the bel canto style. His orchestra of Philadelphia professionals, some of whom are also OperaDelaware regulars, was highly disciplined, responding securely to their demanding maestro. Veteran clarinetist Joseph Smith was particularly expressive, as was flutist David DiGiacobbe, while all the sections maintained uniformly high standards. An opera in two acts, Oberto's intensity rose as each act drew to its close, and it was then, as emotions reached fever pitch, that all the power and imagination of Verdi's nascent talent showed through.

One performance remains, January 31 at the Haverford School's Centennial Hall.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Magical "Night Music" Fills the Air this Holiday Season!

To produce a musical in a tiny black box buried in downtown Wilmington is quite a feat – and to find so many excellent voices and musicians to execute it is a second feat. With no orchestra pit, no wings and very few props, City Theatre Company has a terrific hit with their show A little night music – Stephen Sondheim’s musical based on Ingmar Bergman’s farce movie, Smiles of a Summer Evening.
There must have been a reason to have the singers gather in front of the orchestra at the start of the show, but I couldn’t fathom it. With their backs to the audience, they got our attention and their abrupt turn to face us was like a curtain rising.
Michele Ferdinand dotted every I, t and quarter note in her musical direction and in spite of an occasional lack of clarity from the choral quintet, the attacks and endings of words and pieces was flawless. Michael Gray, who starred as the older husband and lover, codirected with Tom Shade. Gray’s singing, acting and comic sense was the backbone of the production. His young wife Anne, played by Dylan Geringer, was delightful. Her ability to reach the murderously high notes Sondheim wrote made her songs seem easy.
And where did all this talent come from? Casey Elizabeth Gill seemed to have walked off a Broadway stage. Her miming, playfulness and incredible voice were just plain knockout. When she sings her cynical yet vivacious Miller’s Son she runs the gamut of emotion and sound that emulates life’s ups and downs.
Karen Murdoch is, as the song says, perfect as the warm but conniving mistress who, in spite of it all, has warmth which will melt you after you are softened by the haunting clarinet introduction to Send in the clowns. Murdoch has that knack for a quiet coda that takes your breath away.
Dorien Belle’s bumbling Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm creates such a perfect foil for lawyer Fredrik. Their duet, It would have been wonderful had that magic timing that every musician hopes for – the courage to wait until that final microsecond with calm assurance.
Victoria Healy is a mistress of comedy – she, too, knows exactly how to time her punches.
The set was minimal, but with inventive staging, terrific choreography – fantastic opening scene of all the characters awakening, the transitions from house to theatre to backstage to country mansion worked with ease.
Production runs December 2 through December 17, with one Sunday matinee on Sunday, December 11, at 2:00pm. Closing Night is Saturday, December 17 with Closing Night Party at Extreme Pizza.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OperaDelaware opens with Magic Flute

Although they had produced Mozart’s Magic Flute in the recent past, OperaDelaware put a new spin on this latest production. They started in an 18th Century art museum and had Prince Tamino wake up in the 1950s. This made way for some silliness which was fun and still in keeping with the comic intent of the master who created it.

Alok Kumar played Tamino with the same strength and vigor he had given to Alfredo Germont in last year’s La Traviata. His very strong voice and thorough preparation for the role made his character believable in spite of the extremes to which the opera goes to promote the principles of the Masons.

The three ladies of the Queen of the Night (Veronica Chapman-Smith, Melody Wilson and Charlotte Paulsen) stole the show for me with their close harmony, perfectly paced singing and gestures. Their comic romps were hilarious and kept everyone laughing.

The ladies were perfect foils for Papageno, brilliantly played by Sean Anderson. Anderson is not only an excellent singer, but also a great comic. He actually played harmonica rather than letting the orchestra dub his miming, and this bolstered the effect of his comic role. His voice blended seamlessly in his duet with Pamina (Susan Nelson) and his comic verve provided a vector for her to show her comic side, too.

Susan Nelson has a beautiful and well-trained voice and was able to convey a wide gamut of emotion in her singing and her acting. She has control, expression and strength enough to come through strong and clear in her duets with Tamino, the musical culmination of the show.

A fun and polished performance supported by an excellent orchestra was made all the more immediate to me by Stefan Kozinksi and Nicolas Muni’s skillfully wrought English translation of Emanuel Schikander’s original German. The next performances are Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 at the Grand Opera House.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

OperaDelaware’s Widow will make YOU merry

Maestro Steven Mosteller has the ability to conduct with authority yet still allow his soloists to milk the lovely Franz Lehar melodies for all they are worth. Eliezer Gutman’s fluid and gypsy-like lilting phrases were perfect for the schmaltzy songs of Lehar’s Merry Widow.

Laura Pedersen (as the Merry Widow) is svelte and lithe and wore delicious dresses designed by Lorraine Anderson, each one with a short train, which Pedersen gracefully lifted to the crook of her elbow to be whirled around the floor by Daniel Neer (Count Danilo). Their flawless dancing and strong singing give them that electricity that makes the audience believe in their love “spark”.

The operetta which premiered in Vienna in 1905 is a fluffy and hilarious story based on a comedy by Henri Meilhac. The story pits the Paris embassy staff of an impoverished country against French roués who would love to marry the country’s most wealthy widow. Paris and France are outrageously mocked to great comic effect -- it seemed Maurice Chevalier would come on stage any moment to defend his honor or at least to greet Dodo, Clo-Clo, Lolo, Frou Frou, Margot or Jou Jou.

The set, designed by Cynthia Du Pont Tobias, is a fantasy of Viennese Secession but drawn in more of an Art Nouveau style – with a brick-walled garden turned miraculously into a Parisian café and stage for the can-can girls by Robert Parker and his stagewrights.

The opera has creative choreography by Barbara Winchester who mixes the artists of the First State Ballet Theatre into the ballroom dancing of the rest of the cast with great success.

You can’t help but be uplifted by this production, beautifully coordinated by OperaDelaware Executive Director Leland Kimball! Performances May 1, 6 and 7, 2011.


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.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Tosca a Treat by OperaDelaware

Opera Delaware’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca is the best I have seen from the organization since OD’s1960s interpretation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Gustavo López-Manzitti’s passionate portrayal of Mario Cavaradossi is intense – his daredevil high tenor notes and focused acting made for a spellbinding character. His Recondita armonia, extolling the mysteries of Floria Tosca and why he finds her beautiful was almost as gripping as his hauntingly sad E lucevan le stelle - accompanied cautiously by clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt.

Kary Shay Thomson’s Floria Tosca was brilliantly sung. The glockenspiel and flute were perfectly balanced with her voice in E la luna piena – and she brought the house down with her heart wrenching rendition of Vissi d’arte. During the wild applause, both Youngblood and Thomson stayed so firmly in character that I never lost the feeling of being immersed in the story.

The staging by Marc Astafan is inventively illustrative. He places Scarpia on one side, while to his left the choir and cardinal sing the Te Deum to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat. But Scarpia is singing about how he wants to seduce Tosca and cries, “Tosca, mi fai dimenticare Dio” (Tosca you make me forget God) as he demoniacally rips apart a blood red rose given by Tosca as an offering to the church.

Conductor John Baril brings out the contrasting sounds of the Puccini score -- like the bell sounds representing the church as well as tolling the warning of the devious Scarpia. Although the orchestra did not have as many stands as Puccini would have demanded, they produce a great sound. The next performances are on Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8 at 8 p.m.


Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Kids' Stuff....with the Arts!

Despite the winter weather, it's time to start thinking about WCC Summer Camp. This year, we will offer two camps, our Annual Summer Day Camp for treble singers who have completed grades 2-8 and a new Advanced Vocal Camp for advanced male and female singers ages 13-18.

This year's Summer Day Camp for singers who have completed grades 2-8 is scheduled for June 21-25. In addition to choral rehearsals and musicianship training, campers learn new skills in recorder and percussion classes and take the afternoons off for some fun activities like swimming and bowling. After one week, we put it all together for a Friday noontime concert for family and friends and follow it up with an old-fashioned cookout. Older singers can apply to be camp interns.

The new Advanced Vocal Camp is designed for the advanced high school singer who is considering a vocal major, minor, or participation in a college-level choir or opera/musical theatre program while pursuing a non-music major. This one week camp emphasizes solo and choral repertoire, performing and auditioning skills, musicianship skills and staging skills. Highlights include master classes with performing arts professionals and a final performance for family and friends.

Campers do not need to be members of the WCC, so bring a friend! Camp brochures, registration forms and financial aid applications are available and enrollment has already begun.


Mulan Jr.
is based on the Disney production. Music & lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeannine Tesori & Alexa Junge. Adapted and arranged, with additional Music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Mulan Jr. is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). Mulan Jr. is part of THE BROADWAY JUNIOR COLLECTION.

Three shows are available: Friday, March 5th, 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 6th, 4:30 pm & 7:00 pm at the Tatnall School’s Laird Performing Arts Center, 1501 Barley Mill Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19807. Tickets are $10 general or $15 for reserved seating. Available at the door or to guarantee a seat, purchase online at: https:\\ Directed by Kathy Cammett, with Music Direction by Yoonhak Baek.