A scene from Puccini's La Bohème, possibly from the first production.

A Singer’s Notes 60: True Love

Alixina and Jason have done it again.

The Hubbard Hall Opera Theater Resident Artists La Bohème played to a sizeable crowd in the Dorset Playhouse last night, and the audience departed well-pleased. Each opera that I have seen Jason Dolmetsch stage has had the benefit of his excellent ear. Just one example: in Act 3 of La Bohème, where Mimi usually listens off, or nearly off, to the dire pronouncements, Vedrana Kalas walked haltingly across the space way upstage, a few steps at a time, as if what she was overhearing made it difficult for her to continue. Her progress touched the heart. In this abbreviated production (75 minutes with no intermission), Act 3 was given most fully. This is important.

A Singer’s Notes 22: To Sing in Endless Morn of Light

The very short apotheosis at the end of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” at Hubbard Hall made me think of confluences — the building, the performers, the audience. All of these were here in a gentle and honest synch. It was the most evenly cast opera I have heard in this venue. The staging was honest. The two singers in the title roles were convincing in the simplest way. They looked right, and they sounded right. In the dream sequence, which no staging can match, director Dianna Heldman brought to me a naturalness which was moving in its humility and acceptance of the place in which it was performed. The old hall itself seemed an ideal house for this reality. Nothing which Alexina Jones and Kara Cornell did as Gretel and Hansel was prolix. There was no fake childishness. Humperdinck could be said to have produced an adult’s version of what childhood is- simple tunes, good things to eat, etc. I suppose when compared to “The Magic Flute”, an opera which really is childlike, this is true. But this dead-honest production and its raptly attentive audience in the golden light of the hall made it seem a miracle. There were no weak links on stage, and there were no false steps in the staging. It was great.

Mozart/Da Ponte, Le Nozze di Figaro, the debut of the Capital Opera Company, Albany

Last August, tipped off by friends of the always-remarkable Richard Giarusso, I ventured up to Cambridge, New York, to hear him conduct Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte at Hubbard Hall, a nineteenth-century “opera house,” which has seen many vicissitudes, but is now flourishing as a community arts and performance center, thanks to the enthusiasm of its local supporters. It was also the inauguration of a new institution, the Hubbard Hall Opera Company, the brainchild of Alexina Jones. The performance was a delight because of the quality of the young, solidly trained voices, the imaginative use of the hall as a three-dimensional performance space, and the lively acting of an intelligently directed cast, who wanted nothing better than to bring Da Ponte’s human comedy and Mozart’s music to life.

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