Please forgive me if I think of Verdi’s La Traviata and Otello as religious dramas—a father must (or thinks he must) give a child over unwillingly to death—Abraham and Isaac all over again. It is not insignificant that Otello is old enough to be Desdemona’s father. Nor is it insignificant that there is a constant use of the word sacrifice in La Traviata, and no use of the word in Otello. Reading Garry Wills’ recent book Why Priests? has instructed me of the indelibility of the sacraments for old style Catholics. Once a priest, you are always a priest. Once married as a devout Catholic, you are always married. Thus Desdemona’s death was not considered a sacrifice by the Church since she had in fact given up nothing and had no penitential past. Desdemona is a Mary, a Jesus.
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.
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.
Hubbard Hall Opera Theater presents
Hansel and Gretel, by Engelbert Humperdinck
Come see this fully costumed and staged opera, sung in English with supertitles and a 28 piece orchestra!
Performance dates: August 13, 14, 19, 20 at 8pm, August 22nd at 2pm
Kara Cornell, who sang and acted such a brilliant Carmen at Hubbard Hall last summer, and I recently shared a pleasant Australian blend at the Wine Bar on Lark in Albany, where we reminisced about Carmen—actually Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, and talked about next summer’s production, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, in which, as Hansel, she will make a total about face from the dangerous gypsy. Considering Kara’s vivid and very funny Cherubino in the Capital Opera’s Nozze di Figaro last summer, she should be equally successful as the pre-pubescent wood-cutter’s boy. Knowing stage director Dianna Heidman’s sophistication and originality, I can foresee that Hansel and Gretel will go well beyond the usual family entertainment.