• 2017 ARTICLES

    • August 19, 2017 – Why is comedy so difficult?

      Rutland Herald

      August 19, 2017

      Jim Lowe

      Why is Comedy so Difficult?

       

      This summer has seen some stellar musical comedy in Vermont. But some of nonmusical comedy hasn’t been so successful. In fact two productions by excellent professional theaters proved real duds, and another one was nearly wrecked — all by overly zealous comic performances.

       

      Part of the problem is that theater folk get mixed up about what kind of comedy they are doing – and, without the playwright’s permission, they mix it all up, often with disastrous results.

       

      At one end of the spectrum is comedy based on wit, situations and characters. The actors play it as if it weren’t comedy, and the script delivers the humor. The classic example was Weston Playhouse’s excellent production of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” expertly directed by Kent Paul. The humanity of the characters delivered the comedy — and the pathos — in spades.

       

      A much more intimate example is anotherWeston success, “Buyer & Cellar,” Jonathan Tolins’ charming fantasy about a young actor employed by Barbra Steisand. Director Steve Stettler let the story and the characters deliver the humor with just the right touch.

       

      Physical comedy is easily the biggest problem for theaters — knowing when to stop. Neither Lost Nation Theater’s “Around the World in 80 Days,” Mark Brown’s five-actor comic take on the Jules Verne classic, and Dorset Theatre Festival’s “Baskerville,” Ken Ludwig on Sherlock Holmes, again for five actors, were successful. That was somewhat surprising as both companies have had successes previously with this type of comedy.

       

      Both productions suffered from the same basic problem: If it’s funny for two seconds, it’ll be funny for two minutes. If it was funny once, it’ll be for 40 times. If the audience is laughing — or at least someone is — they’re loving it, so keep going until they stop. Although some folks like this — Three Stooges fans — many quickly become bored. In fact, both productions had folks either walking out or leaving at intermission.

       

      Physical comedy needs to be quick and crisp, never wallowing. Both productions’ directors could have used a weekend studying Marx Brothers’ movies — those guys knew what physical comedy was all about.

       

      The same problem — overkill — marred the otherwise excellent Highland Center-Northern Stage production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Greensboro. Because of a lack of comic discipline, Shakespeare’s brilliant wit was overpowered by a need for laughs. Fortunately, the fairies were magical — and very funny.

       

      This summer, however, proved excellent for musical theater, with two splendid examples. In a more traditional vein was Weston Playhouse’s “The Music Man,” Meredith Willson’s classic about the con man being defeated by love. The excellent music aside, director Malcolm Ewen’s deft direction delivered the comedy of human foibles by encouraging rich, rather than silly, characterizations. It was delightful.

       

      More unusual was Opera North’s stylish “La belle Hélène (The Beautiful Helen),” a bawdy and beautiful late 19th century operetta by Jacques Offenbach, spoofing the seduction of Helen of Troy that resulted in the Trojan Wars. Stage director Andreas Hager brilliantly and imaginatively took the action to the decadent 1920s, and employed both physical and visual comedy, but always making it subservient to the wit. Because of this disciplined approach, the audience was laughing delightedly between the gorgeous arias.

       

      It has been said that comedy is much more difficult than drama, and this summer seems to support that. Fortunately, we have some theater in Vermont that truly understands comedy.

    • August 9, 2017 – Momentum Building Behind Opera North's Vision for Connecticut River Estate

      New Hampshire Public Radio

      August 9, 2017

      Britta Greene

      Momentum Building Behind Opera North's
      Vision for Connecticut River Estate

       

      Blow-Me-Down Farm occupies more than 40 acres along the Connecticut River, just across the road from Saint Gaudens National Historic Site. The National Park Service owns the property, and has been working with Lebanon-based Opera North on a plan to spruce up the estate and make it a center for the arts.

       

      "When you can combine all the various types of performing arts, as well as the visual arts, in a natural setting, you kind of get the best of all worlds," said Evans Haile, Opera North's general director.

       

      Opera North has now secured $150,000 in federal funds to renovate a farmhouse on the property. It's the first step toward their vision of creating more performance and studio space there. Those plans will take time and fundraising to evolve, but the organization is already planning shows on the property next summer.

    • August 7, 2017 – Opera North To Renovate Farmhouse

      Valley News

      August 07, 2017

      Rob Wolfe

      Opera North To Renovate Farmhouse

       

      Cornish — Opera North has received a $150,000 federal grant to renovate the main house on Blow-Me-Down Farm, across from the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in its first tangible step toward creating a “national park for the arts.”

       

      Funds from the Northern Border Regional Commission, a federal-state development partnership in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, will cover close to half of the estimated $350,000 cost of renovations at the farmhouse at the site between Route 12A and the Connecticut River.

       

      New Hampshire’s congressional delegation announced the grant in a news release last week as part of a $2.2 million distribution to the state that will include funds to revamp two buildings in downtown Claremont.

       

      The improvements in Cornish likely will take at least a year to complete and are only the first part of a larger plan to create an arts center of regional significance on the national park-owned land, according to Evans Haile, general director of Opera North.

       

      Haile on Monday said the Lebanon-based group will partner with the National Park Service to “create a national park for the arts that will celebrate not only the musical arts, but also the visual arts, and that will be a unique destination for the area — and not only for the area, but for the whole Northeast.”

       

      Once the renovations are complete, the Charles Beaman house, named after the attorney who brought celebrated sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to the area in 1885, will serve as headquarters for Opera North’s summer operations in Cornish, Haile said.

       

      Opera North will not be leaving its offices in Lebanon, he said.

       

      The summer events in Cornish began last month, when hundreds of people visited the farm for shows by Opera North and other performers.

       

      John Hammond, chairman of the Cornish Selectboard, said the traffic and parking arrangements for that event and those in the future had provoked some concern among town Planning Board members — although, he added, there appears to be enough room on the property for visiting cars.

       

      Hammond said local officials had appreciated Opera North and park officials’ recent visit to the Selectboard office to describe their plans, even though, he said, the federal government is exempt from some town regulations that otherwise would apply to such renovations.

       

      “Technically, they can pretty much do as they choose,” he said. “They have come in and discussed it with us, so we appreciate the opportunity to do that.”

       

      Haile said that Opera North anticipated using the Beaman house for offices, technical support and backstage purposes, as well as outside events and receptions.

       

      “As the work continues, we hope to build partnerships with art organizations and nonprofits throughout the region interested in working together to offer a diversity of art-related programs at the farm, from painting and sculpture to dance and drama and even crafts and historic preservation,” Christina Marts, deputy director at the Saint-Gaudens site, said in an email.

       

      “That work, we hope, will also include the rehabilitation of the farm’s other seven structures” — including a caretaker’s cottage, a barn, a dance hall, blacksmith shops, sheds and an 1850s Victorian playhouse — “to support these diverse programs, preserve the site as a gem of the Cornish Arts Colony, and contribute to the region as a cultural destination,” Marts said.

       

      Down the road in Claremont, funds from the regional commission — just under $150,000 — are going toward renovations of two downtown buildings.

       

      Those buildings are 56 Opera House Square, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, according to the city’s planning and development director, and the “Farwell Block,” also on Opera House Square.

       

      Nancy Merrill, Claremont’s director of planning and development, said city officials hoped to open the unused second floor of the Farwell Block to expanded offices for the Sullivan County Oral Health Collaborative.

       

      The vacant building is slated to become a community arts center, Merrill said.

       

      All told, the combined project — combined because the two buildings share a wall and will also share an elevator — may cost as much as $1.8 million, she said. Local officials are seeking a $500,000 community development block grant and other ways to round out the financing.

       

      “We think this is a great project, and we’re going to work hard to put the other funding pieces together and are really grateful to Northern Border for stepping up,” Merrill said.

       

    • August 6, 2017 – Butterfly: Heartbreak – Opera North dazzles on opening night

      UVDaily.com

      August 6, 2017

      Susan B. Apel

       

      Butterfly: Heartbreak

      Opera North dazzles on opening night

       

      Heartbreak. Butterfly's of course. And yours, as you practically weep from your seat during her famous aria, Un bel di vedremo, in Act II, sung with a perfect melding of voice and drama by artist Jinwon Park. You can feel the intensity of her yearning as she dreams of the day when her American husband will return to her. That she is alone in her belief only ratchets up the misery.

       

      Act I introduces Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton (Michael Brandenburg), an American stationed in Japan who demonstrates his lack of regard for the Japanese culture from which he holds himself apart. He has taken a 999-year lease on a local apartment, a legal arrangement from which he is free to release himself each month if he so desires. His glee about this flexibility foreshadows his views of his impending marriage to Cio-Cio-San, or Butterfly, a 15-year old geisha whom he has purchased for a mere 100 yen. He's playing around; she is in it for keeps and believes he is too. She sacrifices culture, religion, and a disapproving family. As Pinkerton is awaiting Butterfly's arrival for the wedding ceremony, he confides to his friend Sharpless (SeungHyeon Baek) that he dreams of his own future with "a real American wife." Marital bliss occurs for Butterfly, but is short-lived as Pinkerton departs soon for America, assuring her of his return.

       

      Three years later, in Act II, it is apparent that no one believes that Pinkerton is coming back except the faithful, now 18 year-old, Butterfly. As Pinkerton had explained in Act I, men in the United States pin butterflies to boards to prevent them from flying away. Butterfly now finds herself pinned, with dwindling resources. Sharpless shows up with a letter from Pinkerton, who had asked him to locate Butterfly to soften the impending blow of his faithlessness. He and Butterfly's maid, Suzuki, (Augusta Caso) can't bring themselves to tell Butterfly the truth. She continues to live in her alternate reality.

       

      One of the most poignant of the opera's scenes is a wordless one in which Butterfly kneels on a pillow, her eye trained on the port to catch the moment of Pinkerton's arrival. It's a lengthy scene, originally conceived by Puccini to last a full quarter-hour. Butterfly is motionless, steadfast in her gaze, her patience, and her conviction that a joyous reunion is about to occur. Behind her, the action is only in the lighting (John Bartenstein's) that shows the passage of the evening into night and then to dawn.

       

      Tension builds. If you are unfamiliar with this opera, you wonder about and long for a resolution. If you do know the opera, you realize that Butterfly is moving slowly and inexorably toward an unhappy fate. Puccini said he wanted to keep the public "nailed to their seats." This production, under the direction of Russell Treyz, has done that.

       

      Madama Butterfly belongs to Park, who is onstage virtually throughout. Her Butterfly is both naive and genuinely in love, and she plays the role with authenticity. Her voice is simply magical. Pinkerton is more or less odious, depending on whether you see him as a totally self-absorbed cad or just a clueless one, though Puccini himself apparently did not see him as a sympathetic character. Brandenburg, possessed of a strong and clear tenor, plays his part thoroughly, making Pinkerton more than a cardboard villain. As one critic wrote of this part: "we either know someone like Pinkerton, or maybe some of us have been him."

       

      Actions have consequences. We hurt people with our ignorance and neglect. We get hurt when we trade common sense for our much-preferred delusions (though Butterfly is forgiven for her youth on this count.) Some see Madama Butterfly as a tale about a clash of cultures, but scholar Arthur Groos, after studying Puccini's many revisions (there were five versions of the opera), saw it in more personal terms, as "a contradiction between the principals' fantasies about each other and reality. Pinkerton's adventurism has brought about this mock relationship; and Butterfly's trusting heart will embellish it."

       

      Go. It's an altogether transporting opera and the sumptuous production you'd expect from Opera North. It will break your heart in the best way.

       

      Madama Butterfly is playing at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon NH on Friday August 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 13 at 5:00 p.m. Click here to access Opera North's website for information and tickets. Sung in Italian with English supertitles.

       

      SOME RANDOM INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MADAMA BUTTERFLY:

       

      1) It started out as a one-act play by David Belasco. Puccini saw it in London's West End and raced backstage to ask Belasco's permission to turn it into an opera. " I agreed at once,” Belasco said, “because it was impossible to discuss arrangements with an impulsive Italian who has tears in his eyes and both arms around your neck.”

       

      2) Puccini's Madama Butterfly was first performed in 1904 at La Scala. It bombed. Puccini rewrote parts of it.

       

      3) In May 2017, Heartbeat Opera  in New York City decided to present Madama Butterfly by starting the production with Act II. Butterfly was already alone and awaiting Pinkerton's return. Act I then became a dream sequence to explain how she came to this point in her life. It also included an ambiguous (!) ending.

    • August 6, 2017 – ‘Madama Butterfly’ Packs Powerful Emotions Into an Intimate Story

      Valley News

      August 6, 2017

      Nicola Smith

       

      ‘Madama Butterfly’ Packs Powerful Emotions Into an Intimate Story

       

      LEBANON NH PUCCINI MADAMA BUTTERFLY OPERA NORTH

      Last year, Opera North mounted a thrilling production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, which was brought to impassioned life by director Russell Treyz, conductor Filippo Ciabatti, set designer David L. Arsenault, lighting director John Bartenstein and the other professionals who work behind the scenes to put flesh on the bones of operatic masterpieces.

       

      Fortunately for Upper Valley audiences the same theatrical artists are behind Opera North’s current staging of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Lebanon Opera House.

       

      They bring out the shadings of a story as gossamer as a butterfly itself, an accomplishment magnified by the intensity of South Korean soprano Jinwon Park in the role of Cio-Cio San, Madame Butterfly.

       

      Numerous operas are of epic scale, with epic casts. Think Verdi and Wagner. Madama Butterfly goes in a different direction. Its emotions are epic, but the scale is intimate. That intimacy, and the sense that Puccini is giving Butterfly’s story the full scope it deserves, makes it one of the most poignant of all works of performing art.

       

      Cio-Cio San, all of 15 years old, falls in love with the callow American naval officer Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, who fancies that he would like to collect a geisha while he’s on a tour of duty in Japan. Cio-Cio San believes his professions of love and his promise to return.

       

      Pinkerton marries Cio-Cio San, knowing full well that the marriage doesn’t have the force of law in the U.S., and sails away. When Pinkerton comes back three years later, it is with an American wife. Together they want to take custody of the son that Cio-Cio San bore Pinkerton. Cio-Cio San cannot conceive of life without Pinkerton or her son, and kills herself.

       

      As they did with Tosca, Puccini and his brilliant librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica refashioned a theatrical potboiler, in this case the play Madame Butterfly, itself cobbled together from numerous sources, into something much greater.

       

      Puccini must have seen in the play the elements that had made great successes of Tosca and La Bohème. Forbidden or doomed love, something common to most operas; an emphasis on naturalistic speech; and memorable heroines. He also capitalized on the late 19th- and early 20th-century European and American craze for Japonisme, a fascination with the arts and culture (and erotica) of what was then called the Orient.

       

      Initially judged to be a failure after its first performances in 1904, Butterfly went through three more iterations before Puccini was satisfied.

       

      Now, Butterfly is one of the most performed and beloved of all operas, which speaks to the profundity and universality of its tragedy: a young mother who must decide between her loyalty to her child, the culture into which she was born, and the culture into which she married.

       

      The former emphasizes individual liberty and happiness, the latter the sacrifice of personal happiness to rigid familial and societal hierarchies.

       

      The far-reaching genius of Puccini, Giacosa and Illica was their modern understanding of the nature of Pinkerton’s actions. Pinkerton gives himself license to woo and then abandon Cio-Cio San precisely because she is not Anglo-Saxon. She is the “other.”

       

      Would Puccini have called himself a feminist, or a critic of colonialism? I don’t know. But the depth of his operas is such that they lend themselves to any number of interpretations, including those. Certainly his deepest sympathies and passions lie primarily with women, and their ongoing struggle between love and duty, freedom and constraint.

       

      If you read the supertitles with some attention, you see that composer and librettists tie Pinkerton’s adolescent behavior quite directly to his American-ness.

       

      Puccini wove into the score motifs from the Star-Spangled Banner, which do more than simply announce Pinkerton’s arrival, or Puccini’s interest in American themes. They announce the clash between a younger, often willfully ignorant, American culture, and an ancient culture that is both mesmerized and horrified by the apparent liberality of the younger.

       

      The artistry comes when Puccini, Giacosa and Illica go beyond the cliches of Pinkerton the cardboard villain, and Cio-Cio San, the victim, to show their transformation after the three-year-interval between marriage and reunification.

       

      Pinkerton is capable of remorse, and Cio-Cio San agonizes over which course is best for her son. That doesn’t lessen Pinkerton’s betrayal, or alter what Cio-Cio San believes must be her fate. But it deepens our empathy.

       

      Soprano Jinwon Park commands our attention with her resonant performance as Cio-Cio San. Her voice is versatile and limber enough to encompass not only Butterfly’s vulnerability but also the strength of her resolve.

       

      Park’s vocals also suggest the other side of sound: silence.

       

      If that sounds paradoxical, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she (and the director and conductor) know how to modulate her tone, from piercing anguish to softer expressions of love to almost complete, and heartbreaking, silence.

       

      Naturally, audiences concentrate on what is being sung, but Park has the emotional depth to convey that what is not being sung, or said, can be as significant. She is also a first-rate actor, capable of both the breathless idealism of the 15-year-old and the more fatalistic woman who greets Pinkerton for the second time.

       

      As Pinkerton, tenor Michael Brandenburg acquits himself persuasively as the cad, earning himself a few boos at the curtain call, but it is in his love arias at the beginning and end of the opera that his vocal talent shines.

       

      In the role of Suzuki, Cio-Cio San’s closest companion, mezzo-soprano Augusta Caso stands out among the supporting cast for the crystalline lines of her singing and her ability to mime her devotion to Cio-Cio San.

       

      Baritone SeungHueon Baek, with a deep, stalwart voice, has the right mix of gravitas and sympathy as the American consul Sharpless, the reluctant go-between for Pinkerton and Butterfly. The rest of the cast ably fills in the shadings of Puccini’s delicate score.

       

      Arsenault’s set, a replica of a traditional Japanese home with sliding panels made from translucent paper and wooden frames, is a marvelously adaptable organism that is deftly used to reveal and conceal the lives of the characters. Director Treyz brings the same sensitivity and eye for detail to staging Butterfly that he did with Tosca. Conductor Ciabatti and the Opera North orchestra catch the fleeting nature of life that Puccini wrote into the score.

       

      If I had to pick a scene that encapsulates the virtues of this production, and indeed the opera, it is the famous Humming Chorus at the end of the second act.

       

      Madame Butterfly and her son, and Suzuki, sit vigil waiting for Pinkerton. Suzuki and Butterfly’s son collapse into sleep but Butterfly sits upright and watchful as night gives way to dawn.

       

      The tender, soft humming of the chorus evince Butterfly’s hopes, but convey also their fragility. There’s a patient stillness and sorrow in the scene that stayed with me long after the opera had ended.

       

      Opera North’s production of Madama Butterfly will be performed today at 5 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. For tickets and information go to operanorth.org or Lebanon Opera House at 603-448-0400.

    • August 5, 2017 – $150,000 Grant For Opera North To Restore Blow-Me-Down Farm

      DailyUV

      August 5, 2017

      Susan B. Apel

       

      $150,000 Grant For Opera North To Restore Blow-Me-Down Farm

      A step closer to a "Park for the Arts"

       

      Opera North will receive $150,000 to renovate the Charles Beaman home to serve as the base for a new summer festival for the performing and visual arts at the Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish NH. The grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission was announced by director Evans Haile at last night's opening of Madama Butterfly at the Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Opera North and the Blow-Me-Down Farm may well be the proverbial match made in heaven. As part of its Summerfest 2017, the Upper Valley's prestigious professional opera company celebrated its 35th anniversary with an outdoor concert at the historic site just a few weeks ago. Over 400 people attended to listen to the resident young artists perform, to explore the Blow-Me-Down buildings, and to take in the killer view of Mount Ascutney.

       

      Charles Beaman was an attorney from New York City. In 1885, he convinced Augustus Saint-Gaudens to summer in Cornish NH at what would later become the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. It is said that Beaman assured the sculptor that New Hampshire had many men with physiques resembling that of Abraham Lincoln; they could pose for Saint-Gaudens while he worked on his now famous statue of the former president. It was the beginning of the Upper Valley's Cornish Colony.

    • August 5, 2017 – Opera North’s ‘Butterfly’ a Truly Memorable Experience

      Rutland Herald

      August 5, 2017

      Jim Lowe

       

      Opera North’s ‘Butterfly’ a Truly Memorable Experience

       

      LEBANON, N.H. – She was Cio-Cio San – Madame Butterfly.

       

      From her first note, soprano Jinwon Park seemed to be channeling the doomed heroine at Friday’s opening night performance of Opera North’s production of one of the most beloved operas of all time, “Madama Butterfly.”

       

      The regional opera company is presenting the Puccini masterpiece in repertory with two other fine productions through Aug. 13: Jacques Offenbach’s delightfully bawdy take on Greek mythology, “La belle Hélène”; and “Kiss Me, Kate,” Cole Porter’s witty Broadway musical inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

       

      Park proved to be one of the few singers who can act with her voice as she registered Cio-Cio San’s innermost thoughts with sensitivity and nuance because of, or in spite of a brilliant and powerful voice. But she was hardly the only fine singer in a traditionally – though subtly imaginative – powerful production, conducted by Filippo Ciabatti and directed by Russell Treyz.

       

      At Friday’s performance, Opera North also announced that it had been awarded a $150,000 grant the Northern Borders Regional Commission. The is meant to jump start the company’s renovation of the historic Charles Beaman House on the grounds of Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish, N.H., the first step in the Opera North’s partnership with the National Park Service to create a park for the performing and visual arts on the grounds.

       

      Giacomo Pucinni’s 1904 “Madama Butterfly,” with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, is set in contemporary Nagasaki, Japan, then under the control of the United States. In order to quell his loneliness, U.S. Navy Lt. B.F. Pinkerton marries the 15-year-old Cio-Cio San, or Butterfly.

       

      Pinkerton sees the marriage as a convenience until he finds a suitable American wife, but the American consul Sharpless warns him that Cio-Cio San is dead serious. Tragedy ensues – set to some of the most glorious and evocative music in all of opera.

       

      Tenor Michael Brandenburg as Pinkerton sounded strained when he pushed his voice, but was beautifully lyrical otherwise, particularly those intimate moments with Butterfly. SeungHyeon Baek was a rock as Sharpless, with his sensitive and warm baritone. Mezzo-soprano Augusta Caso (brilliant as Helen in “La belle Hélène”) had a staid, beautiful quality as Butterfly’s maidservant and backbone Suzuki.

       

      Part of what gave Park’s Butterfly its power was her unusual vocal control. Emotions were built rather than blurted as this deep and demure girl would express herself. The result was a musical tension that proved glorious in the release.

       

      Ciabatti, music director of the Dartmouth Symphony, despite a somewhat under-rehearsed but fine orchestra, focused on the musical storytelling with its variation from conversational style to glorious melody. The result was that he took both the orchestra and the audience along for the ride.

       

      This is a story of its time (though it likely happened many times during the Vietnam War), and Treyz judicially set it at the time. Although the production was entirely traditional, there were many effective touches, some subtle, some not, including a dream sequence and a hard-punching but somewhat confusing ending. The setting (David Arsenault) and costuming (Maisenbach), though attractive and effective, were not terribly interesting – save for Butterfly’s unexpected but entirely appropriate attire in Act II.

       

      Opera North delivered the beauty and power of “Madama Butterfly,” while soprano Park gave it its heart.

       

       

       

      Opera North

      Remaining performances are:

       

      Kiss Me, Kate” by Cole Porter: Aug. 5, 8, 10, 12

      La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach – Aug. 9

      Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini – Aug. 6 (5 p.m.), 11, 13 (5 p.m.)

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m., except where indicated, at the Lebanon Opera House, 5 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $20-$90; call  (603) 448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • August 4, 2017 – Kiss Me, Kate. Will She?

      DailyUV

      August 4, 2017

      Susan B. Apel

       

      Kiss Me, Kate. Will She?

       

      Go to see Bill (Luke Hawkins) tap dance, a tiny surprise in the second act. Or to watch the antics of the gangsters (Bob and Jim Walton) as they sing and hoof their way through Brush Up Your Shakespeare until an actual hook pokes out from behind the curtain to usher them offstage. Lilli's (Naomi Louisa O'Connell) voice is divine, the dancers, including Lois as Bianca (Katherine McLaughlin), are energetic, and the set is clever. Nothing ever dims the excitement of live music, conducted by Louis Burkot, who even appears as a character in the play, briefly and without leaving his spot in the orchestra pit.

       

      It's a play within a play, said to be based upon the lives of theater giants of yore, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. The principal characters, divorced but oh-so-in-love through their continued sparring, are Lilli and Fred (George Dvorsky), working together with a troupe of fellow actors in a production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Their repartee and emotional baggage follow them from their adjacent dressing rooms to the stage and back. Lilli is poised to run off with her General (Jeffrey Grover) and abandon life in the theater for another as a political spouse. No spoilers here, but you can imagine how this all settles out by the final scene

       

      Its views of women are cringe-worthy. Tony-award winning and produced on Broadway in 1948, Kiss Me, Kate has that worn Eisenhower-era feel, where banter between a man and a woman was amusing but the woman always knew, or learned, her place. Where men were free to physically "discipline" their wives. To be fair, what else would a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Shrew look like?

       

      So you are left to occasionally shield your eyes and ears, and wait for the moments--and there are many--when Cole Porter's melodies wash over you. His wordplay brings smiles and at times some guffaws from the audience. Particularly noteworthy are Fred and Lilli's duets, Wunderbar and So In Love. Lilli spits out I Hate Men with convincing ferocity, and Fred delights with a number in the second act, Where Is The Life That Late I Led?

       

      The play could and did spark interesting post-show discussion in the Lebanon Opera House lobby and it spilled into the street. Some sloughed off the treatment of women by labeling it as outdated. Does not "taming" of perceived "shrews" go on in modern-day politics, for one? Recall Trump referring to Clinton as a "nasty woman" during the presidential debates, Elizabeth Warren being silenced when "nevertheless, she persisted." Both, by the way, have become such a part of our popular culture that that are now T-shirt slogans.

       

      Maybe not so outdated after all. Don't kiss him, Kate.

       

      Opera North's 35th anniversary season continues with additional performances of Kiss Me Kate, La belle Hélène, and Madama Butterfly. See Opera North's website for information and tickets.

    • August 3, 2017 – ‘La belle Hélène’ is joyously bawdy

      Jim LoweTime ArgusAugust 03, 2017 ‘La belle Hélène’ is joyously bawdy Jacques Offenbach’s La belle Hélène is what Broadway could have been. Opera North opened a splendid— stylish, beautiful and hilarious— production of Offenbach’s musical parody of the story of Helen of Troy’s elopement with Paris, setting off the Trojan War, on Tuesday at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, New Hampshire. To make the work more immediately accessible, the dialogue was spoken in English while the arias and chorus were sung in French with English supertitles. Operetta is the predecessor of today’s Broadway musical, but Arthur Sullivan’s music for the Gilbert and Sullivan shows wasn’t on a level of Offenbach’s, lacking its sophistication and beauty. And William S. Gilbert’s librettos were positively prudish in comparison with Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy’s for La belle Hélène — yet they were written at nearly the same time. In La belle Hélène, Paris arrives with a missive from the goddess Venus to the high priest Calchas, commanding him to procure for Paris the love of Helen. Paris, disguised as a shepherd, begins his seduction of Helen — which, of course, is preordained — despite her new husband Menelaus’ objections. What would you expect? It’s a Greek tale told by the French. Opera North’s imaginative production, brilliantly stage-directed by Andreas Hager, set the action in a 1920s resort hotel, ostensibly a Greek oracle. The set by David Arsenault and costumes by Jack Maisenbach were imaginative and gorgeous, dramatically lit by John Bartenstein. Choreography by Kurt Domoney was effervescent, notably the bawdy and elegant “ballet” opening the third act. The cast, all members of Opera North’s young Resident Company, was largely excellent. Mezzosoprano Augusta Caso took a moment to warm up but sang with a brilliant lyricism, and displayed a wonderfully wry sense of humor. Tenor Peter Lake, though not at the top of his form, delivered a sly Paris, with passion and an appropriately light lyricism. Both were delightful in the work’s greatest duet, in the second act, where Helen convinces herself she is in a dream when Paris seduces her, so it’s not real and she’s not being adulterous. Of course, Menelaus doesn’t quite agree when he discovers them. The music is among Offenbach’s most sophisticated, mixing beauty and humor. Eric Lindsey was stellar as Calchas, essentially the emcee, with his stentorian bass-baritone and wicked humor. Tenor Christopher Nelson was wonderfully miserable, and a fine singer as Menelaus. Mezzo-soprano Emily Geller was an effervescent delight in the pants-role of Oreste, while the supporting cast and chorus were particularly fine. The backbone was conductor Louis Burkot, Opera North’s artistic director, who led the fine orchestra in a wonderfully light and lyrical performance. It was a joyful performance of the inimitable music by “the Mozart of the Champs-Élysées.” Opera North’s La belle Hélène one of its best productions ever, was a bawdy and beautiful joy. OPERA NORTHRemaining performances are:Kiss Me, Kate by Cole Porter – Aug. 5, 8, 10, 12La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach – Aug. 3, 5 (2 p.m.), 9Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini – Aug. 4, 6 (5 p.m.), 11, 13 (5 p.m.) All performances are at 7:30 p.m., except where indicated, at the Lebanon Opera House, 5 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $20-$90; call 603-448- 0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • August 3, 2017 – Opera Review: Strong Cast Animates ‘La belle Helene’

      By EmmaJean HolleyValley NewsAugust 03, 2017 Opera Review: Strong Cast Animates ‘La belle Helene’ Before Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, she was simply known as the beautiful queen of Sparta. But, as Jacques Offenbach’s comic opera La belle Hélène posits in what’s sort of a satirical prequel to the Iliad, the royal life wasn’t quite doing it for her. Opera North’s production of La belle Hélène, the second show in the company’s 35th anniversary season, puts a snarky spin on an ancient epic and in doing so, subverts the fusty seriousness often associated with antiquity, and with much of the opera genre itself. Though a familiarity with classical myth doesn’t hurt (and can certainly enhance such lines as, “Clytemnestra? … She’s a bit murdery for me, anyway.”), the plot doesn’t require much prior knowledge in order to follow it. The songs are performed in French, but English dialogue and supertitles provide the necessary context. Paris, a mortal, has recently found himself in the fraught position of having to name the most beautiful of three goddesses, including Venus, the goddess of love. It wasn’t much of a contest, though: Venus bribed Paris (Peter Lake) by promising him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helene (Augusta Caso). That Helene wasn’t consulted about this may raise more eyebrows today than it did when the opera debuted in 1860, but it’s worth remembering that the ancient Greeks weren’t big on consent, anyway, and that the premise for the plot is not an endorsement of it. We meet Helene pacing the resplendent lobby of the Hotel Jupiter, mulling over her fate. As luck would have it, she’d recently married Menelaus (Christopher Nelson), the king of Sparta, and even if she isn’t entirely smitten with him, “the timing is most inconvenient,” she notes with a pout. On principle, she vows to resist the fate that’s been assigned to her, but this resolve lasts only moments. When Paris walks into the lobby, dressed as a lowly shepherd, Helene is blindsided by her attraction to him. So begins an awkward, then unbridled affair between the star-crossed lovers, which poor Menelaus has the bad luck of interrupting at the most inopportune times. Caso makes a captivating and deeply charming Opera North debut as Helene. She establishes an instant rapport with the audience with her sly grin and can-you-believe-this-guy eyerolls, small mannerisms that add spunk and complexity to a character that history has rarely portrayed in three dimensions. Even more impressive than her acting talent is her voice. Often, when singers belt as powerfully as Caso does, they look as if they’re in danger of bursting a blood vessel; Caso’s resounding soprano seems to pour out of her effortlessly, and her impressive vocal control makes hers a voice that could truly launch a thousand ships. Among the overall excellent cast are a few standouts: Lake’s portrayal of Paris — a mere mortal who somehow lands a daughter of Zeus — is relatably earnest, and his voice carries a lush, warm timbre. And Emily Geller, wisely cast as Helene’s cousin Orestes, conveys a playboy-posh swagger as only a woman can. Kurt Domoney’s deft choreography amplifies Geller’s knack for comedy: At one point, she unleashes a saucy dance on a tabletop that elicited peals of laughter from the audience. The play is rife with moments of physical humor such as this, but it’s at its cleverest when it makes self-referential jabs at its own genre. During an impromptu quiz in Act I, staged with aplomb like a campy game show hosted by soothsayer Calchas (Eric Lindsey), one of the riddles is: What is born each night, but dies at dawn? “My love life?” guesses one guest. “An appreciation for French operetta?” quips another. It also pokes fun at the solemnity of Greek epics, such as when Agamemnon (Bradley Christensen), the brother of Menelaus, announces his arrival at the Hotel Jupiter with a lyric that translates as, “This fantastic beard I am wearing tells you I’m Agamemnon.” The beard, with tinsel-like highlights woven into grey Botticelli curls, really is fantastic. It’s one of costume designer Jack Maisenbach’s hilariously nuanced touches, but the overall costume design also reflects Maisenbach’s eye for flair. The actors wear, among other get-ups, flapper dresses, three-piece suits, vintage bathing suits and hats with plumes, creating an aesthetic that is vintage, but markedly un-ancient. It’s a satisfying departure from the toga-ed Grecian grandeur I expected to see, and one that embodies what makes a comic opera so appealing: It refuses to take itself, or its subject matter, too seriously. La belle Helene invites the audience not to take itself too seriously, either. The script features some nods to Hanover that those familiar with the town will appreciate, including references to the Canoe Club restaurant, and, memorably, the “glistening pectorals of the Dartmouth rowing team.” Moments like these make the show fly by at a sprightly, yet measured pace that the orchestra, conducted by Louis Burkot, matches brilliantly. Though there were a few moments Tuesday night when the score was so thunderous that it drowned out the singers’ voices (though, it should be noted, never Caso’s), the musicians’ performance was precise, yet expressive. Of course, the great inside joke between Offenbach and the audience is that everyone knows, more or less, what will come after the curtain call; the fun lies in witnessing the tension between, and ultimate resolution of, fate and free will. It’s a performance fit for the gods. We mortals are lucky to have it. La Belle Helene will run at the Lebanon Opera House tonight, Saturday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($20 to $90) or more information, visit operanorth.org or call the box office at 603-448-0400.

    • August 2, 2017 – Opera North and Pentangle Arts premiere

      August 2, 2017

      Mountain Times

       

      Opera North and Pentangle Arts premiere

       

      Monday, Aug. 7, 6 p.m.—WOODSTOCK—Opera North & Pentangle Arts are thrilled to present the Vermont premiere of Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, a film by Lonny Price, at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre on Monday, Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. The evening will include a talk-back after the screening with Jim Walton (currently starring in Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate) and David Cady, who are featured in the film and starred in the legendary Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along, upon which the film is based.

       

      Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened is a documentary which takes a now-and-then behind-the scenes look at one of Stephen Sondheim’s and Harold Prince’s most beloved works. “Merrily We Roll Along” opened on Broadway to enormous fanfare in 1981, but closed after only 16 performances.

       

      Lonny Price was a member of the original Broadway cast, which also included Jim Walton, David Cady, Ann Morrison, Jason Alexander, Geoffrey Horne, David Loud, Daisy Prince, Liz Callaway, Tonya Pinkins and Giancarlo Esposito. The film features interviews with original cast members as well as Stephen Sondheim, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Guettel, Frank Rich, and others. While the original production closed shortly after opening, the show gradually assumed legendary status and the film focuses on the special place it hold in their hearts.

       

      The New York Times called it among the top 10 movies of 2016;  Rolling Stone wrote:“Mesmerizing, indispensable”; and Entertainment Weekly said: “A Triumph.”

       

      The evening will feature a pre-screening reception in the foyer of the theatre.Tickets are $10 for the screening and talk back; $30 for the reception, screening and talk back. Purchase online at squareup.com/store/pentangle-movies or call 802-457-3981.

    • August 1, 2017 – Theater review: Cole Porter wit sparks ‘Kiss Me Kate’

      August 1, 2017

      By Jim Lowe

      Rutland Herald

       

      Theater review: Cole Porter wit sparks ‘Kiss Me Kate’

       

      N.H. – Cole Porter never grows tired, as was evidenced by Saturday’s opening

      night performance of “Kiss Me Kate” at the Lebanon Opera House. The Opera North

      production delivered Porter’s stylish music and inimitable wit in spades – and even

      poked fun at the work’s dated sexism.

       

      Porter’s 1948 Broadway hit, with book by Samuel and Bella Spewack, follows a

      production by a struggling theater company of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.”

      Fred Graham, the show’s producer, director and star, and leading lady Lilli Vanessi are

      celebrating the first anniversary of their divorce with newly ignited fireworks. The

      immediate source is the actress Lois Lane, playing Bianca, who is having trouble

      explaining her infidelities to her boyfriend Bill Calhoun.

       

      If that weren’t enough, Bill, an inveterate but incompetent gambler, has signed Fred’s

      name to an IOU for $10,000 with a local gangster, who sends a couple of his thugs to the

      theater to collect. Rounding out the fun, Lilli has sent for her fiancé, a five-star army

      general, to get her away from Fred.

       

      The mayhem that ensues is worthy of a Shakespeare comedy, and the music and lyrics are

      Cole Porter at his best and wittiest.

       

      Opera North’s production, conducted by Artistic Director Louis Burkot and stage directed

      by Evan Pappas, was delightfully entertaining. George Dvorsky and Naomi Louisa

      O’Connell were delicious as the warring Fred and Lilli. Dvorsky had the requisite

      machismo theatrically and vocally, while O’Connell, offered a beautifully rich soprano

      and a delightful feistiness – plus a touch of romance.

       

      Still, it was Katherine McLaughlin as the randy Lois who proved the brilliant singer, and

      an outrageous flirt. She was complemented by Luke Hawkins’ Bill, who proved a

      particularly fine singer and fabulous tap-dancer. Nearly stealing the show, though, were

      Bob Walton and Jim Walton as the two gangsters, particularly in their romp as vaudeville

      hoofers.

       

      The production benefited from a full orchestration, well played by the Opera North

      orchestra. Most performances these days use a minimal pit band, so the colors here were

      ratcheted up big time. Amplification seems to be a necessary evil now, and there were

      moments when it was a bit too obvious.

       

      The singing and dancing, with choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, despite a few

      opening night glitches, was Broadway-style and delightful. Michael Schweikhardt’s set

      was attractive and imaginative, but the dressing rooms proved a bit awkward. Costumes

      by Jill Tarr added to the color of an already colorful production.

       

      Opera North’s “Kiss Me Kate” was quite simply a real pleasure.

       

      Opera North

      “Kiss Me Cate” by Cole Porter: Aug. 2, 5, 8, 10, 12

      “La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach – Aug. 1, 3, 5 (2 p.m.), 9

      “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini – Aug. 4, 6 (5 p.m.), 11, 13 (5 p.m.)

       

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m., except where indicated, at the Lebanon Opera House,

      5 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $20-$90; call (603) 448-0400, or go online to

      www.operanorth.org.

    • july 31, 2017 - Review: Opera North Opens a Smart Production of ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News Staff Writer

      Monday, July 31, 2017

       

      Now marking its 35th anniversary, Opera North has dipped again into the endlessly

      inventive and deep well of American musical theater with its production of Kiss Me, Kate,

      the first show of the company’s season to open at the Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Cole Porter’s 1948 musical, based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, has an exuberant,

      witty score with inventive, tongue-twisting lyrics, but the book, by Broadway and Hollywood

      veterans Bella and Sam Spewack, shows its age with ham-fisted jokes about women and

      their desirability, and how to bring them to heel — spanking and hitting not discouraged.

      However, if you can ignore that aspect of the musical, what you’re left with is Porter’s real

      subject, which is show business.

       

      Kiss Me, Kate has the classic structure of a show within a show: A theater troupe opens its

      musical version of The Taming of the Shrew in out-of-town previews prior to bringing it to

      New York. The divorced stars, Lilli and Fred, are cast as Kate and Petruchio, and the

      couple’s own contentious dynamic naturally finds its way into the skirmishes between

      Shakespeare’s leads.

       

      The production skates as gracefully as it can over the dated elements of Kiss Me, Kate while

      playing up the sophistication of Porter’s razzle-dazzle word play, which reaches its zenith in

      such standards as Brush Up Your Shakespeare, Where Is the Life That Late I Led and I’ve Come

      to Wive It Wealthily in Padua.

       

      Forget the me-Tarzan, you-Jane love story between the two leads, Fred and Lilli, which is

      not exactly perfunctory but seems to go through the motions of what’s expected — a few

      love duets, some snappy repartee, a few misunderstandings and an unsurprising reunion.

      This isn’t an overarching, tender, Rodgers and Hammerstein love story, where lovers

      surmount significant barriers to be with one another.

       

      The love duets Wunderbar and So In Love have beautiful, soaring melodies, but Porter

      seems more at home with such teasing, sexy, we-know-exactly-who-we-are songs as Why

      Can’t You Behave? or Always True to You in My Fashion.

       

      What really gets Porter’s blood going is another opening, another show, the smell of the

      grease paint, the roar of the crowd, the drumming sound of tap shoes and lights flooding

      the stage. That’s the love affair, that’s what makes your heart thump and skip.

       

      Which is precisely what this production delivers, particularly under the baton of Louis

      Burkot, who brings verve to the score, bringing out its jazzy elements and mid-century

      swing by highlighting the big-band sound of the brass and percussion. I’m always reminded

      during the Opera North season, as if one needs reminding, that there is no real substitute

      for live music, and live singing.

       

      The troupe bringing us Kiss Me, Kate has some standouts, beginning with Naomi Louisa

      O’Connell as Lilli/Kate. O’Connell, born in Ireland of Irish and German parents, is in her first

      season with Opera North, but let us hope that it is not her last. She has a supple, bright

      voice and star quality, but perhaps more important, for this piece, she has comic chops,

      that extra something that makes you pay attention when she comes on stage.

       

      So does Katherine McLaughlin in the dual role of Bianca, Kate’s younger sister, and Lois,

      the actor playing Bianca. It takes a smart actor to play the perennial role of the dim bulb,

      which Lois is. As her foil, Bill and Lucentio, Luke Hawkins has a terriffic tap number in the

      second act, which deservedly earned him a round of applause Saturday evening.

       

      Choreographer Antoinette DePietropolo seamlessly incorporates the dance numbers into

      the whole, and they’re one of the real pleasures of the production.

       

      Brothers and seasoned stage veterans Bob and Jim Walton are given the plum assignment

      of the two gangsters who get to sing one of the cleverest songs in the American musical

      repertoire, Brush Up Your Shakespeare, and they handle it with the wink and nod of

      practiced vaudevillians.

       

      Jeffrey Grover, who plays Lilli’s fiance, a general who barks orders and wears dark

      sunglasses, a la Douglas MacArthur, is good for some laughs, although some of the

      Spewacks’ jokes about the well-known animosity between MacArthur and Harry Truman

      may be lost on younger audiences. Since the audience is there for the music, not the comic

      schtick, it doesn’t really matter.

       

      George Dvorsky, in the roles of Fred and Petruchio, seems to come alive when he seesaws

      between the two men in the musical within the musical. Fred is, let’s face it, a rather

      wooden creature. But when Dvorsky plays off Fred against the ebullient Petruchio, he

      seems to relax into the dual roles with ease.

       

      By the time he gets to Where Is the Life That Late I Led, in which Petruchio bemoans settling

      down when he’s enjoyed a merry-go-round of liaisons in Milano, Taormina and Pisa,

      Dvorsky has the bearing of a leading man.

       

      Despite the creakiness of aspects of the book, Director Evan Pappas, who has worked at

      Opera North previously on Evita, Daughter of the Regiment and West Side Story, has the sense

      to just let it be, rather than trying to update it to the point where it becomes a completely

      different animal.

       

      When Kiss Me, Kate revels in the antics of theater people, it has the pizzazz of a slightly

      naughty, amiable burlesque routine. As the saying goes, there’s no business like show

      business.

       

      Remaining performances of Kiss Me, Kate are scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Saturday, at

      7:30 pm; Tuesday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 pm; and Saturday, Aug. 12 at

      7:30 pm. For information and tickets go to operanorth.org or call the Lebanon Opera House at

      603-448-0400.

    • July 27, 2017 – Italian, French and American at Opera North

      Rutland Herald

      July 27, 2017

      Jim Lowe

       

      Italian, French and American at Opera North

       

      Vermont’s oldest opera company is actually in New Hampshire. Founded in 1982, Opera North is continuing its recent tradition of three productions in repertory — a major opera, a smaller opera by its young Resident Company, and a major work from the golden age of musical theater.

       

      Beginning Saturday, Opera North will present Cole Porter’s Broadway hit, “Kiss Me Kate,” for six performances; “ La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach for four starting Aug. 1; and, opening Aug. 4, Puccini’s beloved “Madama Butterfly” four times, all at the 800-seat Lebanon (N.H.) Opera House. All productions are fully staged and accompanied by full orchestra, with supertitle translations where appropriate.

       

      “I’ve got a great cast,” Evan Pappas said of “Kiss Me Kate,” which he is stage directing. “Not just in talent, but they just want to come play and be part of it. They’re egoless — and we have a beautiful time. Every day, I just can’t wait to go to work.”

       

      Andreas Hager, who is directing “La belle Hélène,” said of the operetta, “It takes this classical story and turns it on its head, and makes it about contemporary life in Offenbach’s time— with lots of fun and silliness.”

       

      Russell Treyz, directing “Madama Butterfly,” calls the classic a gorgeous opera. “ It’s the music” that is responsible for the opera’s longevity, he said. “It is absolutely gorgeous music.”

       

      ‘Kiss Me Kate’

       

      Written by Samuel and Bella Spewack, with music and lyrics by Porter, “Kiss Me Kate” was Porter’s answer to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” and won the first Tony Award presented for Best Musical in 1949. The story is of a production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” during which the director, producer and star, Fed Graham, and leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi, are at each other’s throats and nearly destroy the show.

       

      “I think it’s Cole Porter’s best show, you don’t get tired of this music,” Pappas said. “I love how they took the Lunt-Fontanne bit (referring to husband and wife actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and their 1935 production of “Shrew”), and the biting and the causticness and the harshness and the love they had for each other, and turned it into this show. And it really is their lives.”

       

      A second romance involves Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend Bill, who runs afoul of some gangsters.

       

      “They’re all fighting, they’re all at odds, and yet you just root for all of them,” Pappas said. “You love to root for these guys. And I love the old-school sense of this. It’s wit personified — caustic with a light touch. It’s just delightful.”

       

      ‘La belle Hélène’

       

      La belle Hélène,” with a French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy,” is Offenbach’s 1864 operetta, or opéra bouffe, parodying the story of Helen of Troy’s elopement with Paris, setting off the Trojan War.

       

      “It’s really great at holding up a mirror,” Hager said. “In the things that could be very serious, it kind of pokes fun at all of us. So, all the characters are extremely selfish, all of them are doing things just for themselves, living for their own pleasure and not thinking about the consequences at all.

       

      “What’s so fun about this is we see all of the pleasure, and the consequences happen after the curtain falls,” Hager said.

       

      Offenbach uniquely combines light theater music with classical depth.

       

      “It’s a lot of fun,” Hager said. “Most of it is very bouncy dance tunes. Honestly, I can’t get it out of my head.”

       

      Hager has updated the action to the 1920s, and the location to the south of France, but retained the original’s flat-out decadence.

       

      “We’ve gone very far with the decadence,” he said. “We have some very beautiful sets by David Arsenault, and Jack Maisenbach has gone really overboard with the costumes — they look so luxurious, it’s a little bit insane.”

       

      The production will be performed by the Resident Company, young up-and-coming opera singers.

       

      “They’re fantastic, Hager said. “They have been so game and willing to play. We have all this choreography for them because this music demands dancing.”

       

      Hager cited mezzo soprano Augusta Caso, who plays Hélène.

       

      “She’s been having a lot of fun. It’s a big diva role, which mezzos don’t usually get to do,” Hager said. “For Paris, we’ve got a wonderful tenor, Peter Lake. He’s just a big stage animal. They have this big duet where Paris convinces Hélène everything is in a dream, so then she doesn’t have to feel guilty about cheating on her husband Ménélas.”

       

      Hager has rewritten and shortened the French spoken dialogue in English, but the arias and chorus will be sung in the original French with English supertitles.

       

      “It’s very frivolous and frothy,” Hager said, “but you’re left at the the end of it with a feeling, ‘Oh! Something is not right with the world.’”

       

      ‘Madama Butterfly’

       

      Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” has been a popular staple of the opera repertoire since its premiere in 1904 (though the “standard” version didn’t come until 1907). With an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, it tells of the faked marriage between an innocent 15-year-old Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), and the U.S. Navy Lt. B.F. Pinkerton. Disaster ensues when she bears their child and realizes the truth.

      “ Someone said that, in a way, Puccini was the first film score writer,” Treyz said. “That sounds a lot cheesier than what it is. But it’s true the music underlines the action of the story so much and magnifies it.

       

      “And what I’m finding in doing this is that all of it is written into the music,” he said. “The emotions are there — all the things that are going on inside the characters.

       

      “We really see the hearts of the characters through the music,” he said.

       

      For this production, Treyz is retaining the original setting in 1904 Japan.

       

      “I find that Puccini is so specific to what is going on that I’m not wanting to transport it to somewhere else or into a different time,” he said. “It is written for where it is and how it is.”

       

      Still, David Arsenault’s set isn’t entirely realistic.

       

      “He has taken the house and just simplified it a little bit so it represents a house rather then being a strictly detailed Japanese house,” Treyz said. “It’s a little stylized. It’s a little like a Japanese print or painting.”

       

      The entire opera focuses on Butterfly, who will be sung by soprano Jinwon Park.

       

      “It’s basically one long aria,” Treyz said. “Once she’s on stage she’s singing her heart out for the rest of the opera.”

       

      Audiences have always had to suspend disbelief for an adult woman singing as the 15-year-old Butterfly, which no teen can do. In this production, there’s more: Suzuki is being played by a Euro- American and the American Consul is being played by an Asian-American.

       

      “It’s the music,” Treytz said. “You adjust to that because of the score.”

       

      OPERA NORTH

       

      Kiss Me Kate” by Cole Porter: July 29, Aug. 2, 5, 8, 10, 12 “

      La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach – Aug. 1, 3, 5 (2 p.m.), 9

      Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini – Aug. 4, 6 (5 p.m.), 11, 13 (5 p.m.)

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m., except where indicated, at the Lebanon Opera House, 5 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $20-$90; call (603) 448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • July 25, 2017 – Theater company eyes partnership with Saint-Gaudens

      July 25, 2017

      By Timothy Laroche

      Eagle Times

       

      Theater company eyes partnership with Saint-Gaudens

      Renovation project would pave way for summer arts festival

       

      CORNISH — Opera North, a professional theater company based out of Lebanon, plans to develop a

      nationally recognized summer arts festival in cooperation with Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. The

      organization applied for a grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission for $250,000 to

      renovate the historic Charles Beaman House at Blow-Me-Down Farms at the site.

       

      If the grant goes through, the historic 40-acre farm would be the venue for the proposed summer festival,

      Opera North General Director Evans Haile.

       

      “We intend that festival to include music, theater and dance,” Haile said.

       

      The Northern Borders grant, if awarded, would go toward renovating the house on the property to serve

      as a sort of home base for the organization’s presence at the farm. The Northern Borders grants,

      awarded each year to communities in parts of New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Maine, are

      meant to help modernize the infrastructure and bring economic bene􀂡t to areas in need of growth.

      The grants are competitive, and notice will only be given about the recipients after Aug. 5 when NBRC

      Federal Co-Chair Mark Scarano reviews the applications.

       

      The case for Opera North receiving the grant, Haile said, comes down to bringing tourism and a creative

      economy to areas into the southern reaches of the Upper Valley. Aside from drawing people to the

      festival itself, Haile said there would be greater incentive to open restaurants and stores in the Windsor-

      Cornish area.

       

      “It will be a great incentive for the area economically,” Haile said. “We want it to be embraced by all of the

      communities around there.”

       

      Currently, plans are still in the works for the creation of the festival even if the grants are not awarded,

      but, Haile said, the renovations would speed up the ability of the organization to expand their offerings.

      “It’s going to be a multi-year growth process,” Haile said, noting that the grant is only a small piece of

      their plans to further develop the arts festival. “We’re very excited about the whole process.”

       

      Already, Opera North’s offerings draw crowds from around the Upper Valley and even across the country.

      From Broadway actors in their productions to the elaborate set designs of their shows, the organization

      has grown into a force on the regional arts scene over the last 30 years. Now, the organization plans to

      expand their operation to the south of their traditional home at the Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Haile said he hopes that the communities will be receptive of the organization’s mission, and he

      encourages people to make the trek to Opera North’s many shows — the organization will put on a

      production starting Saturday of “Kiss Me Kate,” a musical about the relationship antics of a theater

      company’s star actor and his ex-wife, the leading lady during a production of “Taming of The Shrew.”

      For a full list of productions from Opera North, visit their website at operanorth.org. Tickets are available

      online or at their box office.

       

      In the state’s second congressional district this year, 16 different organizations submitted applications

      for the North Borders grant, including the Claremont Development Authority. The CDA’s grant application

      is for redevelopment of the property at 56 Opera House Square would allow for an expansion to the

      Claremont Community Dental Center and make headway for the West Claremont Center for Music and

      The Arts to move into a new downtown location.

    • July 16, 2017 – Blow-Me-Down Farm: A Park for the Arts?

      DailyUV

      July 16, 2017

      Susan B. Apel

      Blow-Me-Down Farm: A Park for the Arts?
      A boon for the Upper Valley . . .

       

      It was a birthday party filled with music, lobster rolls, blessedly sunny skies, a tent overflowing with guests. And a killer view of Mount Ascutney.

       

      Opera North celebrated its 35th anniversary with a concert at the Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish NH this past weekend. The celebration was one in a series of events leading up to the opening of three fully-staged productions–Madama Butterfly, La belle Hélène, and Kiss Me Kate–of the Summerfest 2017 season.

       

      Resident Artist Cara Collins, mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Evans Haile and Andrew Gerle on piano

      Blow-Me-Down Farm was a considered choice. During his tenure as director, Evans Haile has sought a presence for Opera North outside of the walls of the Lebanon Opera House. Concerts have been scheduled in a Lebanon church, at the Fells estate, on Lake Sunapee, and at the new Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro VT. Last year, Haile took the opera company to the The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock VT for an early season performance. This year, Opera North paired with the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site at the Blow-Me-Down, a riverside property recently acquired by Saint- Gaudens.

       

      At Saturday's concert, Park Ranger Rick Kendall spoke not only about the property's history but also about its future. The farm consists of several buildings–a house, a dance hall, a casino, a barn–that are in need of repair. (New wells have been installed and a septic system is in the offing.) The Park Service reached out to area nonprofits to partner in the property's restoration; Opera North was one of the first to respond. Both the Park Service and Opera North see their own missions as compatible with one another, as well as in sync with the farm's history, where the arts and social gatherings once flourished. There is hope that they will flourish again, and that Blow-Me-Down will become "a park for the arts." Kendall says input from the public about future use of the site is welcome.

       

      The afternoon began with bluegrass from Pooh Sprague and the Four Hoarse Men and segued into performances by the opera company's Resident Artists. They employed those trained operatic voices to sing classic selections from American musicals such as Oh What a Beautiful Morning and You'll Never Walk Alone. The concert concluded with excerpts from this season's operas; a trio sang a particularly moving piece from Madama Butterfly.

       

      It wasn't all music; there were funds to be raised. Evans Haile showed himself to be not just an administrator and a highly talented pianist. He is also a funny and formidable auctioneer. Audience members were invited to contribute to the costuming of the Resident Artists, "lest they be forced to go naked on stage." There were opportunities to bid on walk-on roles in La belle Hélène and Kiss Me Kate. Cartoonist Harry Bliss's talents were auctioned off after he agreed to produce a cartoon of the highest bidder's pet, to appear in the New Yorker or a major American newspaper. Finally, a New York Broadway weekend with Haile as guide and dinner companion brought in the record bid.

       

      Opening night steals ever closer. The first performance of the season will be Kiss Me Kate, opening on July 29. La belle Hélène begins on August 1, Madama Butterfly on August 4. For further information and ticket purchases, see Opera North's website.

    • July 13, 2017 – Free Concert Showcases Blow-Me-Down Farm Plans

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News

      July 13, 2017

       

      Free Concert Showcases Blow-Me-Down Farm Plans

       

      The sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens first came to the Cornish area in 1885, encouraged

      to visit by his friend Charles Beaman, a New York City attorney. Beaman owned nearly 43

      acres of prime bottomland along the Connecticut River at a property he called Blow-Me-

      Down Farm.

       

      Once Saint-Gaudens established himself at the nearby house he called Aspet, other artists,

      writers and musicians soon followed, and the Cornish Colony was born.

       

      This Saturday, Opera North will perform at Blow-Me-Down Farm as part of the celebration

      of the company’s 35th anniversary.

       

      The performance, which is free and open to the public, also heralds an effort by the Saint-

      Gaudens National Historic Site, part of the National Park Service, to turn Blow-Me-Down

      Farm into a permanent venue for the visual and performing arts, or what it calls a “national

      park for the arts.”

       

      In 2010, the National Park Service accepted the donation of Blow-Me-Down Farm by the

      Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial, the site’s nonprofit partner, to the Saint-Gaudens

      National Historic Site, said Superintendent Rick Kendall in a phone interview.

      The question then became, how best to put Blow-Me-Down Farm to public use?

       

      When park officials submitted a management plan for public comment what they heard

      back, said Kendall, was the desire that the performing and visual arts, and arts education,

      play a leading role in the preservation and use of the farm. The park service then put out a

      call to area arts organizations for proposals.

       

      “Being a fairly small National Park, we realized we couldn’t see that vision through by

      ourselves: we needed partners to make that happen for us. We would have a role in that,

      but there are people out there who do arts presentation and education better than the

      National Park Service ever could,” Kendall said.

       

      Opera North is one of those partners, said Evans Haile, Opera North’s general director, in a

      phone interview.

       

      “We are excited about the potential use of Blow-Me-Down Farm as a true artistic and

      cultural destination for the performing and visual arts,” Haile said.

       

      Last summer, the park service and Opera North collaborated on a concert held at the

      Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock.

       

      “We’re happy to continue to work with them,” Kendall said.

       

      The concert this year, Haile said, will include previews of the Opera North season: Puccini’s

      Madama Butterfly, Cole Porter’s classic musical Kiss Me, Kate, and Jacques Offenbach’s light

      comic masterpiece La Belle Hélène, as well as other pieces by Puccini, Porter and Jerome

      Kern.

       

      The performance also will be, said Kendall, “a wonderful opportunity to open the gates at

      Blow Me Down farm to explore an unparalleled view of the Connecticut River,” one not

      often seen because the farm has rarely been open to the public.

       

      Of the 10 buildings on the property, nine of them, including the main house, a caretaker’s

      cottage, a barn, a dance hall, blacksmith shops, sheds and an 1850s Victorian playhouse,

      could be used for arts-related purposes, Kendall said.

       

      The farm will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Pooh Sprague, of nearby Edgewater Farm,

      and the Horsemen will perform from 3 to 4:30, and Opera North will perform from 4:30 on.

      The performances will take place under a large tent, rain or shine. Guests are encouraged

      to bring their own picnics, but Boisvert’s Curbside Kitchen will also be selling fresh seafood,

      hamburgers and French fries. And there will be free cupcakes for all, said Lisa Morrison,

      Opera North’s marketing manager.

       

      The larger objective, said Haile, is to turn the farm and its buildings into office and

      performance space, and artists’ studios, in collaboration with other arts organization.

      “I strongly believe that the Upper Valley has the potential for being a national cultural

      destination. A place like Blow-Me-Down Farm has history, beauty and nature — all of the

      elements that could be a true incubator for the arts,” Haile said.

       

      That would be very much in keeping with tradition, said Kendall. “Ultimately our goal is to

      capture the magic of what once was the Cornish Colony, where artists can come and create

      art, and where visitors can see the performing arts in action.”

       

      Opera North will also offer a Lake Sunapee musical dinner cruise at 6 p.m. next Thursday,

      for $100; and will perform “Celebrating America’s Songbook” at the new Highland Center

      for the Arts in Greensboro, Vt. on Sunday, July 23, at 5 p.m.

       

      For information on “A Celebration of Opera North’s 35th Anniversary” go to operanorth.org or

      call 603-448-4141.

       

      The address for Blow-Me-Down Farm is 364 New Hampshire Route 12A.

       

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

    • july 13, 2017 – Opera North Expands Its Reach

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News

      July 13, 2017

       

      Opera North Expands Its Reach

       

      If the primary objective of any performing arts organization is to transport an audience to

      worlds and cultures very different from that audience’s familiar surroundings then this

      summer’s Opera North season, which opens on July 29 at Lebanon Opera House, achieves

      that goal.

       

      Cole Porter’s effervescent Kiss Me, Kate, a musical within a musical that opens on July 29, is

      set off and on Broadway. Jacques Offenbach’s 19th century comic opera La Belle Hèléne,

      opening on Aug. 1, is a satire of the Trojan War, while Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s timeless

      tragedy, which opens on Aug. 4, is set in Japan at the turn of the 20th century.

       

      Artistic director Louis Burkot conducts Kiss Me, Kate and La Belle Hèléne, while Fillipo

      Ciabatti, who made his Opera North debut last year with a sensational interpretation of

      Tosca, returns to conduct Madama Butterfly.

       

      “My goal and Louis’ goal, when people come to us, is that they put aside all preconceived

      notions of what they think opera is, and they come and see just an evening of magic,

      storytelling and great beauty on the stage,” said Evans Haile, Opera North’s general

      director, in a phone interview.

       

      Kiss Me, Kate, Porter’s inspired take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, stars Naomi

      O’Connell, an Irish-born, New York-based soprano as Lilli, and George Dvorsky, a Broadway

      veteran, as her ex-husband, Fred. Lilli and Fred have been hired to play Petruchio and Kate,

      and, predictably, sparks fly. Brothers Jim and Bob Walton, also longtime Broadway, film

      and TV vets, are on hand to sing the immortal tune Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

       

      The director is Evan Pappas, who has previously staged Evita, West Side Story and Daughter

      of the Regiment for Opera North. Michael Schweikardt, who won a Broadway World Award

      for best scenic design for a 2012 production of Showboat at the Goodspeed Opera House in

      Connecticut, is the set designer.

       

      La Belle Hèléne is being directed by Andreas Hager, who was an assistant director for Opera

      North a few years ago, said Haile. It is part of the Opera North tradition that the singers,

      directors, conductors and other theater professionals who have gone through its Resident

      Artists program often return to the company as more seasoned professionals. The set

      designer is David Arsenault, who has done sensational work for other Opera North

      productions, including Tosca and Abduction from the Seraglio.

       

      Offenbach’s opera is being updated to a 1920s seaside resort. The Jazz Age, with its vogue

      for youth and novelty, echoes today’s internet age. “We live in this age of selfies and the

      internet and Facebook. Belle Hèléne really points fingers to that sense of self-awareness. It’s

      very relevant today,” Haile said.

       

      Mezzo-soprano Augusta Caso, who has recently performed at the Spoleto Festival in South

      Carolina, and earned plaudits from the New York Times for her lead role as Anais Nin in the

      eponymous opera, will sing the lead role of Hélène. Tenor Peter Lake will play Paris and

      Eric Lindsey, who appeared in last year’s Opera North production of Tosca, will sing the role

      of the high priest Calchas, who is asked to intercede for Paris in his pursuit of Helen.

       

      Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, with some of the most achingly poignant music ever written for

      opera, is one of the great works in the repertoire. Lt. Pinkerton, a callow American naval

      officer, visits Japan on a tour of duty and seduces the young Cio-Cio San, or Madama

      Butterfly, promising her he will return one day. Butterfly believes him and bears his son.

      Needless to say, Pinkerton’s promise isn’t kept in the way that Cio-Cio San hopes.

       

      Opera North has cast Jinwon Park, a South Korean soprano who has sung in Europe and

      Asia as Cio-Cio San. Michael Brandenburg, who recently played Pinkerton for the Opera

      Theater of St. Louis, and has sung at Glimmerglass in Upstate New York and at Washington

      National Opera in Washington, D.C., takes on the role again for Opera North: Haile calls

      him a rising young American singer. Caso, who sings Hélène, will also sing Cio-Cio San’s

      closest confidante Suzuki.

       

      The conducting and directing team of Fillipo Ciabatti and Russell Treyz, who gave us last

      season’s Tosca, are back at the helm for Madama Butterfly, as is Arsenault.

      John Bartenstein is the lighting designer on all three productions.

       

      For the first year, the company is building and storing its own sets at Heritage Hall in

      Windsor, an opportunity that arose, Haile said, and one which extends the company’s

      reach beyond Lebanon.

       

      That expanding reach is seen also in the audience, Haile said.

       

      The Opera North summer season attracts people from 46 states and five foreign countries,

      he said. The visitors “contribute to the economic fabric of the area, and Opera North is part

      of that.”

       

      But more to the point, Haile said, “this is as good singing as you will find anywhere in the

      summer and we are very proud of that.”

       

      For information go to the Opera North website, operanorth.org, or call the Box Office
      at 603-448-0400.

       

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

    • July 13, 2017 – Opera North Program held at Blow-Me-Down farm

      Eagle Times

      July 13, 2017

       

      Opera North program held at Blow-Me-Down Farm

       

      CORNISH — Summerfest 2017 will be Opera North’s 35th season and to celebrate this anniversary, Opera

      North will hold a free event Saturday, July 15, at the historic Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish. The concert

      will take place on the lawn of this beautiful farm on the banks of the Connecticut River and will feature a

      performance by Opera North singers and musicians. The event is held in partnership with the National

      Park Service, who manages the property.

       

      Gates will open at 3 p.m. with the Opera North concert starting at 4:30 p.m. Opera North principal artists

      and members of the Opera North orchestra will perform selections from the 2017 productions –

      "Madama Butterfly," "La belle Hélène," and "Kiss Me, Kate." In addition, there will be a live auction offering

      a variety of unique experiences, including a Broadway weekend in NYC, walk-on appearances in Opera

      North’s 2017 productions.and more.

       

      Visitors are invited to picnic and enjoy the grounds prior to the concert. Pooh Sprague and the

      Hoarsemen, a popular local band based in Enfield, will be providing entertainment and National Park

      Service staff will be on hand to provide background on the site and its historic buildings.

       

      Blow-Me-Down Farm was owned by Charles Beaman, an attorney from New York City, who convinced

      Augustus Saint-Gaudens to summer in Cornish in 1885. Saint-Gaudens' arrival in Cornish sparked the

      beginning of the Cornish Art Colony. Blow-Me-Down Farm became the hub of the Cornish Colony’s social

      activities. Blow-Me-Down Farm is currently owned by the Saint-Gaudens Memorial and managed by the

      National Park Service.

       

      Summerfest 2017, the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley, runs July 8 to

      Aug.13. The festival features concerts at historic sites around the region including Mainstage

      productions start July 29, at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets start at $20, with the best seats going for

      $90. Purchase them online at www.operanorth.org or through the box offce at (603) 448-0400.

    • July 11, 2017 – 16 of 700: Meet Opera North's Resident Artists

      DailyUV

      July 11, 2017

      Susan B. Apel

      6 of 700: Meet Opera North's Resident Artists

      "The truth in their voices . . ."

       

      Many try but few are chosen. Of the over 700 auditions across the United States this year for Opera North's Resident Artist Program, only 16 individuals were selected. If my math is correct, that means that the rate of acceptance into the program settles in at about 2.2%. Those are formidable odds.

       

      The numbers give some indication of the level of talent, but the Resident Artist Showcase held recently at the Lebanon United Methodist Church in Lebanon NH offered up the real proof. This was the inaugural event of Opera North's Summerfest 2017, which runs from July 8 to August 13. It is the annual opportunity to introduce these young artists to the Upper Valley community. They populate the cast of one of the three productions, Offenbach's La belle Hélène and will also appear in supporting roles in Madama Butterfly and Kiss Me Kate. Artistic Director Louis Burkot is already praising their versatility and what he called "the truth in their voices."

       

      The evening proceeded as 13 performers, one by one, introduced themselves and the piece they were going to sing, beginning with mezzo soprano Emily Geller's "revenge aria" from Semele by Handel. Their voices were beautiful and their stage presence undeniable, and they brought such professionalism to their performances before a shoulder-to-shoulder audience in this small church. Baritone Nathan Matticks absolutely sold his Cortigiani from Rigoletto. Cara Collins, resplendent in red, vamped her way through the audience singing Carmen's Habanera.

       

      Director Evans Haile has made it his mission to embed Opera North throughout the Upper Valley. This year, the shows' scenery is being put together in Windsor VT. The artists were on to another concert at the historic Fells Estate in Newbury NH, scheduled for the night after the showcase. Coming up on Saturday, July 15 is a birthday celebration for Opera North at the Blow-Me-Down-Farm in Cornish NH, presented in partnership with the National Park Service. Admission is free, gates open at 3:00 p.m. with the Opera's performance at 4:30 p.m. Haile has promised that lobster rolls will be on the menu, and that the show will go on, rain or shine. Other events include:

       

      Lake Sunapee Musical Dinner Cruise in Sunapee NH on Thursday, July 20 at 6:00 p.m.

       

      Celebrating America's Songbook at the brand new Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro VT, Sunday July 23 at 5:00 p.m.

       

      Full productions at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon NH begin with Kiss Me Kate on Saturday, July 29. La belle Hélène opens on Tuesday, August 1, and Madama Butterfly on Friday, August 4. Each of the two operas will be performed on 4 different evenings; the musical Kiss Me Kate will have 6 performances. Operas have supertitles in English.

       

      For tickets and further information, check out Opera North's website.

  • 2017 PRESS RELEASES

    • july 26, 2017 – Vermont cinema premier: “BEST WORST THING THAT COULD EVER HAVE HAPPENED!”

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      July 26, 2017

       

      OPERA NORTH AND PENTANGLE ARTS ARE PROUD TO PRESENT
      “BEST WORST THING THAT COULD EVER HAVE HAPPENED!”

      Called “Top 10 Movies of 2016” by The New York Times, “Mesmerizing, indispensable” by Rolling Stone,
      “A Triumph” by Entertainment Weekly and “Superb” by LA Times.

       

      WOODSTOCK, VT – Opera North and Pentangle Arts are thrilled to present the Vermont premiere of BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED, a film by Lonny Price at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre on Monday, August 7 at 6 pm. The evening will include a talk-back after the screening with Jim Walton (currently starring in Opera North’s KISS ME, KATE) and David Cady, who are featured in the film and starred in the legendary Broadway musical MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, upon which the film is based.

       

      BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED is a documentary which takes a now-and-then behind-the scenes look at one of Stephen Sondheim’s and Harold Prince’s most beloved works. MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG opened on Broadway to enormous fanfare in 1981, but closed after only 16 performances.

       

      Lonny Price was a member of the original Broadway cast, which also included Jim Walton, David Cady, Ann Morrison, Jason Alexander, Geoffrey Horne, David Loud, Daisy Prince, Liz Callaway, Tonya Pinkins and Giancarlo Esposito. The film features interviews with original cast members as well as Stephen Sondheim, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Guettel, Frank Rich, and others. While the original production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG closed shortly after opening, the show gradually assumed legendary status and the film focuses on the special place it hold in their hearts.

       

      The evening at Woodstock Town Hall Theatre will feature a talk-back with original Broadway cast members Jim Walton and David Cady after the special screening. There will also be a pre-screening reception in the foyer of the theatre.

       

      Tickets: $10 for the screening and talk back; $30 includes the reception, screening and talk back. They can be purchased online at https://squareup.com/store/pentangle-movies or by calling (802) 457-3981.

       

      About Opera North

      Now in its 35th season, Opera North was founded in 1982 and is based in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. Summerfest 2017 runs July 8 to August 13, 2017 with productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. Tickets start at $20, with the best seats going for $90. Purchase them online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      About Pentangle Arts

      Since 1974, Pentangle Arts has created arts and cultural experiences that foster creativity within our community through the presentation of live performances of music, theatre and dance; screenings of films; the visual arts; and other special arts programs. For more information about Pentangle Arts and its programs, visit www.pentanglearts.org

       

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • july 06, 2017 – Summerfest 2017 kicks off with series of special events

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      July 6, 2017

       

      OPERA NORTH’S SUMMERFEST 2017 KICKS OFF WITH A SERIES
      OF SPECIAL EVENTS INCLUDING 35TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
      AT BLOW-ME-DOWN FARM

       

      LEBANON, NH – Summerfest 2017 will be Opera North’s 35th season. To celebrate this anniversary, Opera North will hold a free event at the historic Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish, New Hampshire on Saturday, July 15th. The concert will take place on the lawn of this beautiful farm on the banks of the Connecticut River and will feature a performance by Opera North singers and musicians. The event is held in partnership with the National Park Service, who manages the property.

       

      Gates will open at 3 pm with the Opera North concert starting at 4:30 pm. Opera North principal artists and members of the Opera North orchestra will perform selections from the 2017 productions – Madama Butterfly, La belle Hélène, and Kiss Me, Kate. In addition, there will be a live auction offering a variety of unique experiences, including a Broadway weekend in NYC, walk-on appearances in Opera North’s 2017 productions, and more.

       

      Visitors are invited to picnic and enjoy the grounds prior to the concert. “Poo Sprague and the Hoarsemen,” a popular local band based in Enfield, will be providing entertainment and National Park Service staff will be on hand to provide background on the site and its historic buildings.

       

      Blow-Me-Down Farm was owned by Charles Beaman, an attorney from New York City, who convinced Augustus Saint-Gaudens to summer in Cornish in 1885. Saint-Gaudens' arrival in Cornish sparked the beginning of the Cornish Art Colony. Blow-Me-Down Farm became the hub of the Cornish Colony’s social activities. Blow-Me-Down Farm is currently owned by the Saint-Gaudens Memorial and managed by the National Park Service.

       

      Summerfest 2017, the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley, runs July 8 to August 13, 2017. The festival features concerts at historic sites around the region including The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, New Hampshire) on July 9, Blow-Me-Down Farm (Cornish, New Hampshire) on July 15, Sunapee Cruises (Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire) on July 20, and Highland Center for the Arts (Greensboro, Vermont) on July 23.  Mainstage productions – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate – start July 29th at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets start at $20, with the best seats going for $90. Purchase them online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      About Opera North

      Now in its 35th season, Opera North was founded in 1982 and is based in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley.

       

      Opera North's Resident Artist Program chooses a select number of distinguished young professionals to work with world-class directors, designers, and conductors to perform and cover appropriate roles in the mainstage productions. Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theatre. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • june 15, 2017 – KEY CAST MEMBERS AND CREATIVE TEAM FOR La belle Hélène announced

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      June 15, 2017

       

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES KEY CAST MEMBERS AND CREATIVE TEAM
      FOR La belle Hélène

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the principal roles for La belle Hélène, one of its three 2017 mainstage productions. Augusta Caso will sing the lead role of Hélène, Peter Lake will play Paris and Eric Lindsey will sing Calchas.

       

      Soprano Augusta Caso recently made her mainstage debut at the Spoleto Festival USA in Vivaldi’s Farnace. She has also sung with Sarasota Opera (Dialogues des Carmélites) and Maryland Lyric Opera (Roméo et Juliette). In 2018, Augusta will make her debut at the Metropolitan Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Tenor Peter Lake has performed with Central City Opera (Tosca and The Impresario), Mississippi (Carmen) and Chautauqua Opera (Eugene Onegin). In 2016, Peter was a young artist with Central City Opera where he won the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Apprentice Award. Bass-baritone Eric Lindsey recently debuted with Shreveport Opera (La Boheme) and has also performed with Sarasota Opera (Cosi fan tutte) and Opera in Williamsburg (Le Nozze di Figaro and Rigoletto). Last year, Eric played Sacristan in Opera North’s Tosca.

       

      La belle Hélène will be directed by Andreas Hager and conducted by Louis Burkot. David L. Arsenault is the scenic designer, John Bartenstein is the lighting designer, Kurt Domoney is the choreographer and Jack Maisenbach is the costume designer.

       

      "We are delighted to present this delicious dessert as part of Opera North’s 35th season. It is fun-filled show with great music that will have you dancing in the aisles," said General Director Evans Haile.

       

      Offenbach’s La belle Hélène is a comedy of mistaken identities and door slams, filled with high energy dancing tunes and vocal fireworks. Get ready for rollicking hijinks amongst the Greek gods. Venus plots revenge, as Jupiter tries to rein in his chickens, meanwhile Paris rides to victory with the beautiful Helen (whose face launched a thousand ships).

       

      Performances are at Lebanon Opera House (Lebanon, NH) on Tuesday, August 1 at 7:30 pm, Thursday, August 3 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 5 at 2:00 pm and Wednesday, August 9 at 7:30 pm.

       

      Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 13, 2017 and features concerts and special events at historic sites around the region plus three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate – at Lebanon Opera House. Concert locations include Blow-Me-Down Farm (Cornish, New Hampshire), Sunapee Cruises (Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire), Highland Center for the Arts (Greensboro, Vermont), and The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, New Hampshire). Tickets start at $20, with the best seats going for $90. Purchase them online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces a series of concerts at landmark locations around the area and three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House. Opera North's Resident Artist program provides young professional opera singers with experience and education to further their careers. Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theatre. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • May 16, 2017 – Kiss Me, Kate cast announced

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      May 16, 2017

       

      George Dvorsky, Naomi O’Connell, Jim Walton,
      Bob Walton, Luke Hawkins, Katherine McLaughlin
      to Star in Opera North’s KISS ME, KATE

       

      OPERA NORTH SUMMERFEST 2017 (Evans Haile, General Director) announces casting and creative teams for Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, one of three mainstage productions that run July 29 – August 13 at the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

       

      Evan Pappas will direct, with choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, musical direction by Louis Burkot, set design by Michael Schweikardt, lighting by John Bartenstein, and costumes by Jill Tarr.

       

      The cast will feature Broadway veterans George Dvorsky as Fred Graham, Jim Walton and Bob Walton as the vaudevillian gangsters, and Australian star Naomi O’Connell as Kate. In addition, the cast will include tap virtuoso Luke Hawkins as Bill Calhoun, Katherine McLaughlin as Lois Lane, and Emily Hardman as Hattie.

       

      General Director Evans Haile says, “We are proud that Opera North will be celebrating its 35th season with a stellar line up of international artists and Broadway creative teams, making Opera North a not to be missed destination.”

       

      Performances of Kiss Me, Kate take place Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 pm, Wednesday, August 2 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 5 at 7:30 pm, Tuesday, August 8 at 7:30 pm, Thursday, August 10 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 pm.

       

      Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 13, 2017 and features concerts and special events at historic sites around the region including Blow-Me-Down Farm (Cornish, New Hampshire), Sunapee Cruises (Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire), Highland Center for the Arts (Greensboro, Vermont), and The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, New Hampshire).

       

      In addition to Kiss Me, Kate, Opera North mainstage productions will be Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, directed by Andreas Hager, with choreography by Kurt Domoney, set design by David L. Arsenault, and costumes by Jack Maisenbach, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, directed by Russell Treyz and conducted by Filippo Ciabatti, with set designs by David Arsenault and costumes by Jack Maisenbach. Tickets start at $20, with the best seats going for $90. Purchase them online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces a series of concerts at landmark locations around the area and three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House. Opera North's Resident Artist program provides young professional opera singers with experience and education to further their careers. Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theatre. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • April 26, 2017 – Madama Butterfly Cast announced

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      March 25, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH’S SPRING EDUCATION & OUTREACH TOUR
      HEADING TO HIGH SCHOOLS IN VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is about to embark on its latest Education & Outreach Tour. From March 29th to April 1st, the 2016 Spring Tour will head to nine high schools from Rutland, Vermont to Newport, New Hampshire, as well as the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, to perform Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone.

       

      The Telephone is a one-act comic opera that premiered in 1947. Although it was written almost 70 years ago, its underlying theme is still relevant today: a couple is having difficulty communicating mostly because a telephone keeps getting in the way – not hard to image in today’s smart-phone obsessed culture.

       

      In addition to performing the 20-minute opera, professional opera singers Amber Dewey and Trevor Martin will discuss the piece with students. Pianist Henry Danaher will accompany the singers.

       

      About Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program

      Opera North’s Education & Outreach program introduces opera to under-served regions of the New Hampshire and Vermont Upper Valley, where funding cuts have severely impacted music and arts education. Through live performances and informative discussions, thousands of local elementary, middle, and high school students have the opportunity to experience opera and musical theatre each year. In the spring and fall, the E&O Tour takes relevant, age-appropriate opera to area schools and libraries. Opera North’s Resident Artists perform short operas or selections from musical theatre and are available to interact with students during discussions. The Tour goes to about ten schools in each tour and there is no cost for schools to participate. Any school interested in taking part should email info@operanorth.org.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. Summerfest 2016 runs from July 9 to August 13 and will feature productions of Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • March 14, 2017 - education and outreach tour

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      OPERA NORTH’S SPRING EDUCATION & OUTREACH TOUR
      PRESENTS EXCERPTS FROM KURT WEILL’S STREET SCENE
      TO NINE VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE HIGH SCHOOLS

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce its Spring 2017 Education & Outreach Tour. From April 3 – 7, nine high schools – from Randolph, Vermont to Sunapee, New Hampshire – will be treated to excerpts from Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. There will be a free public performance at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont on April 5 at 4 pm.

       

      Street Scene is a ground-breaking musical drama about immigrant life in New York City between the two world wars. The music will be brought to life by Opera North Resident Artists Trevor Neal, Elisabeth Slaten, Christina Christensen, Tobias Wright and Emily Geller. It will be highlighted with projected images of immigrant life created by Dartmouth professor Annalise Orlick. Pianist Henry Danaher will accompany the singers.

       

      Opera North’s Education & Outreach program introduces opera and musical theatre to elementary, middle, and high school students in under-served regions of the New Hampshire and Vermont Upper Valley, where funding cuts have severely impacted music and arts education. Each spring and fall, the E&O Tour takes relevant, age-appropriate opera to area schools and libraries. Opera North’s Resident Artists perform short operas or selections from musical theatre and interact with students through informative discussions. The Tour goes to about ten schools and there is no cost for schools to participate.

       

      The 2017 Spring Education & Outreach Spring Tour will kick off Opera North’s 35th season. The week will also include Opera North’s Spring Fling Soirée, a music filled social evening at the Quechee Club, on Friday, April 7th and Opera, Schmopera, a celebration of the Jewish heritage in music theatre and opera, at the Roth Center on Saturday, April 8th. More details on the events can be found at www.operanorth.org/special-events.html.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company in the region. Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 13, 2017 and will feature three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate – at Lebanon Opera House as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

      ARTIST BIOS

       

      Amber Dewey, Soprano

      Amber Dewey is a native of Amarillo, Texas and a 2012 graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in German and a minor in music. Credits include Cunegonde (Candide) as a guest artist at Dartmouth College, Ilona Ritter (She Loves Me), Billie Smith (Babes in Arms), Adele (Die Fledermaus), and Nanette (No, No, Nanette) with the College Light Opera Company, Crissy (Hair) and Enid Hoopes (Legally Blonde) with the New London Barn Playhouse, and Pink Sheep 1/Cunegonde cover (Candide) with Amarillo Opera. Most recently, Amber performed with Blue Gate Musicals as Sara (Josiah for President) and Star (Half-Stitched), and originated the role of Harper (Our Christmas Dinner), for which she is also on the original cast recording.

       

       

      Heather Gallagher, Mezzo-soprano

      Heather Gallagher will be joining Opera North as a Resident Artist this summer. She is presently an Emerging Artist with Boston Lyric Opera, where she will be appearing in Werther (Katchen, Charlotte understudy) and The Merry Widow (Sylviane/Dodo). Recent credits include the title role in Carmen, Les lettres de Werther (Charlotte), Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah), The Love Potion (Isolt's Mother), Katya Kabanova (Feklusha) and the Boston premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's opera, Sumeida's Song (Asakir). Awards include Boston Lyric Opera's 2015 Shrestinian Award for Excellence, 1st place in the 2015 Peter Elvins Competition, 1st place 2015 Metrowest Competition and an Encouragement Award from The Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation (2012).

       

       

      Trevor Martin, Baritone

      Trevor Martin made his role debut as Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Madison Opera in 2015. He revisits the role when he joins the Fort Worth Opera Studio for their 2015/16 season. Also, at Fort Worth Opera, he will be covering the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, as well as the roles of Victor in Jeff Myers' Buried Alive and the Producer in Patrick Soluri's Embedded. Trevor spent the summer of 2015 with Des Moines Metro Opera as an Apprentice Artist covering Jake Wallace, Bello and Happy in their production of La fanciulla del West, and in 2014/15, participated as an Emerging Artist at Virginia Opera, where he covered the role of Baron Douphol in La traviata.

       

    • March 06, 2017 – Spring FLing

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      March 6, 2017

       

      OPERA NORTH’S SPRING FLING SOIRÉE AT QUECHEE CLUB ON APRIL 7TH

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce that its Spring Fling Soirée will take place at the Quechee Club on Friday, April 7, 2017. The evening of music will kick off Opera North’s 35th season. Favorites from George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Kurt Weill will be featured, in addition to selections from Summerfest 2017 shows: Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate.

      The music will be brought to life by Opera North Resident Artists Trevor Neal, Elisabeth Slaten, Christina Christensen, Tobias Wright and Emily Geller. Opera North General Director Evans Haile and Henry Danaher will accompany the singers with Musical Direction by Artistic Director Louis Burkot.

       

      Tickets to the Spring Fling Soirée are $35, which includes light appetizers. They may be purchased online at www.operanorth.org/special-events.html or by phone at (603) 448-4141. Doors open at 6 pm. The Quechee Club is located at 3268 Quechee Main Street, Quechee, Vermont 05059.

       

      In addition to the musical entertainment, more details will be available about Summerfest 2016 – Opera North’s exciting music festival of concerts, special events, and mainstage performances that runs from July 9 to August 13 at Lebanon Opera House and landmark locations around the Upper Valley.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company in the region. Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 13, 2017 and will feature three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate – at Lebanon Opera House as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

  • 2016 articles

    • December 07, 2016 - Valley News - Opera North Sets Its Season

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News Staff Writer

      Wednesday, December 07, 2016

       

      Opera North Sets Its Season

       

      Opera North has announced its 2017 season, with tickets going on sale this week through the Lebanon Opera House for a trio of works featuring memorable settings and even more memorable women: the tragedy Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, the light opera La Belle Helene by the 19th century French composer Jacques Offenbach and the exuberant mid-century American musical Kiss Me, Kate by Cole Porter.

       

      The season will run from July 29 through Aug. 14, and the company will continue to offer the same flexibility in ticketing it did last year. Patrons can pay for season subscriptions or individual tickets now, but reserve the actual dates closer to summer. Discounts on tickets are available through the end of this year. Kiss Me, Kate opens on July 29; La Belle Helene opens Aug. 1; and Madama Butterfly opens Aug. 4.

       

      But if you can’t wait until summer to see Opera North, the company will be performing its holiday perennial Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Lebanon Opera House on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.

       

      There will also be two free or reduced-price school performances on Tuesday, at 11 a.m. at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, and on Friday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. at Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Although the theme of the summer season is exotic adventures, Haile said, strong women were also a central through line of the Opera North 2016 season. As in ballet opera is a performing art form in which roles for women are particularly rich, even dominant.

       

      Madama Butterfly, the story of a young Japanese woman who falls in love with an American naval officer, is perhaps Puccini’s most poignant opera. Offenbach’s La Belle Helene, first performed in Paris in 1864, is a spoof on the Greek myth of Helen of Troy and her lover Paris, whose affair is the igniting spark of the Trojan War. And there’s Cole Porter’s glorious score and lyrics for Kiss Me, Kate, which is a musical within a musical and is partially adapted from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

       

      La Belle Helene is delightful, said Haile. “People will feel the same way about Helene as they did about (last year’s production of) Daughter of the Regiment.”

       

      What is notable about the 2017 season, said Haile, is that the productions will maintain the same high standards that were set last season in direction, production design and singing.

       

      Russell Treyz, who directed the company’s triumphant production of Tosca, returns to direct Madama Butterfly. He will be working with set designer David Arsenault, who did the set last year for Daughter of the Regiment (Arsenault worked on the current revival on Broadway of the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses). Evan Pappas, who last year directed both Evita and Daughter of the Regiment, will direct Kiss Me, Kate. The creative team for La Belle Helene is yet to be determined, Haile said.

       

      Summerfest 2017 will also feature a pre-season that runs from July 8 until the opening night of Kiss Me, Kate.

       

      The company will offer recitals at the Fells in Newbury, N.H., and a scenic dinner cruise on Lake Sunapee and will also continue its collaboration with the National Park Service, as it did this year to commemorate the service’s 100th anniversary.

       

      “We’re now really building these relationships with other organizations in the Upper Valley, and outlining the fact that the Upper Valley is a national cultural destination,” said Haile.

       

      For information go to operanorth.org or the Lebanon Opera House at 603-448-0400.

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

    • November 01, 2016 - Opera News - Tosca (8/9/16), La Fille du Régiment (8/10/16)

      November 1, 2016

      David Shengold

      Tosca (8/9/16), La Fille du Régiment (8/10/16)

       

      OPERA NORTH'S City Hall-based theater, on a pretty, wooded town square, looks like it could be in Our Town’s Grover’s Corners. One feels very calm there. Yet on August 9, the company—now in its second full season under the leadership of general director Evans Haile—put on a Tosca as gripping and incendiary as one could wish. Conductor Filippo Ciabatti dispensed admirable sweep and tension with a reduced (but skilled) orchestra. Russell Treyz staged a taut drama, traditional in outline but with some novel touches. Tosca—handsome, petite Sandra Lopez, an admirably responsive actress—reacted to Scarpia’s praises with a range of emotions, including professional pride; Act I’s chorus—and Scarpia’s posse—entered effectively through the auditorium. Tosca despairingly traced the sign of the cross over both her tormentor’s and her lover’s corpses. The show really looked as if a major urban company were in (miniaturized) play: Paul Tate dePoo III (sets) and Jack Maisenbach (costumes) achieved elegance and contrast with a vibrant palette. John Bartenstein’s lighting aided mood creation throughout, with Rome’s skyline subtly coming into view as Act III progressed.

       

      Lopez is an experienced Puccini professional, with a dark-hued lyric instrument capable of considerable emotional power. Her experience has taken its toll on the freshness of her voice at full tilt, though she managed all the climaxes sensibly. Her honest artistry proved compelling. Jeffrey Gwaltney made a tall, personable Cavaradossi but, unlike his principal colleagues, didn’t seem to listen onstage, offering the kind of generalized “surtitle acting” not based on the words. Apart from “Sei tu?” and a few moments in Act III’s arias, we heard little of his decent though un-latinate tenor at less than mezzo-forte. More legato would help.

       

      Gwaltney’s more than serviceable performance was rather put in the shade by Aleksey Bogdanov’s superb Scarpia. The Russian–American baritone, in granitic voice, offered star quality in every way. The text was scrupulously shaped, with considerable dynamic range and a musical finesse the role rarely receives. Dark-haired and pale, Bogdanov made as sensual and sexy a Scarpia as we’ve seen since the heyday of Milnes and Díaz: he telegraphed, to both Tosca and his audience, his enjoyment of his own villainy. (This near-vampirish concept got unexpected backup from a live bat that dive-bombed Bogdanov in Act II.) Eric Lindsey—detailed and human as the Sacristan without undue fussiness—unfurled a fat, resonant bass evoking Ezio Flagello. William Meinert (Jailer) also showed an evenly produced, promising bass.

       

      THE FOLLOWING NIGHT'S Fille du Régiment conformed more typically to expectations of a small summer company: attractive, talented young singers gave Donizetti’s comedy a broad, sitcom-ish reading that was deficient in actual style. The crowd seemed happy throughout, but my pleasure in the performance largely ended with artistic director Louis Burkot’s well-led overture. (Granted, the fail-safe “Il faut partir” made its wonted effect.) Stage director Evan Pappas generally took a fairly low road; he and soprano Lindsay Ohse (alternating Marie with Martha Eason) seem to have taken Natalie Dessay and Laurent Pelly’s view of the vivandière very much to heart. Ohse’s boisterous, mugging hoyden and Alex Soare’s mushy-toned Sulpice “acted funny,” a sure preventive for character-based humor and genuine charm. Ohse has vocal power and tended to sock out high notes; bel canto lines often turned bumptious. Andrew Surrena (sharing Tonio with Martin Clark) fielded a more relaxed characterization and sang with pleasant sound and good line except when in overdrive for the role’s famed high Cs—which he reached, though not without effort.

       

      No one sang good French; it would have been better to stick to English, which was used for the dialogue. Heather Gallagher’s Marquise fielded the best speaking voice; Trevor Neal (Corporal) disclosed a rich bass. Maureen Brennan, Broadway’s sexy 1974 Cunegonde, was Opera North’s Krakenthorp, interpolating as salacious a rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “I never do anything twice” as can be imagined. Still boasting voice and energy, Brennan won an ovation, although it would be hard to think of a number less appropriate for the crustily disapproving Duchesse at that moment. Fille justly won some laughs and cheers, but Opera North’s Tosca was a really impressive achievement.

    • September 01, 2016 - The Complete Hoot - Review: An Enthralling and Superb Opera North Tosca

      Jo Evarts

      Septebmer 1, 2016

       

      Review: An Enthralling and
      Superb Opera North Tosca

       

      Puccini's Tosca was performed in Opera North's season, and it was a stunning success. It seems composer Giacomo Puccini loved the tragedy of women committing suicide when love goes wrong, and whether or not Giuseppe Illica, who wrote the libretto, was in on that plot line at its origination, Puccini had an exceptional ability to turn the tragedies of love and life lost into the soaring arias and duets that lift the audience up and into the heights of opera as if what is happening is real.

       

      The Opera North production was brilliant in all its aspects. Filippo Ciabatti, new to Dartmouth, was the musical director and conductor for the production. The orchestra was relocated into the audience left, as it was larger than previous Opera North productions. The expansion of the orchestra and its location meant the music was far more splendid and immediate; the arabesques of Puccini's music were simultaneously gorgeous in both orchestration and vocal performances, which blended beautifully.

       

      The Director was Russell Treyz, and his team created scene sets that were both large enough and powerful enough in color and detail to "house;' as it were, this tremendous opera. Scenic design led by Paul dePoo costumes by Jack Maisenbach, and lighting by John Bartenstein were all superb, and utilized the projection technique, which allows for sumptuous details that don't have to be produced in three-dimensional form.

       

      The casting for this Tosca was excellent. Sandra Lopez as Tosca was exceptional; her vocals and characterization both required

      tremendous range, and Lopez created a most compelling Tosca. She is an extraordinarily talented woman.

       

      Jeffrey Gwaltney as Cavaradossi was wonderful and, like Lopez, had the magnificent combination of the sensuous and the sexual that made the lovers' couple passionate and hot-blooded. His vocal performance and his physical grace were outstanding.

       

      Aleksey Bogdanov as the evil Scarpia gave a great performance that established his blend of cunning and ambitious in the police chief. The scenes in his office, when Cavadossi is being tortured and Scarpia is thereby torturing and taunting Tosca, were riveting.

       

      The opera itself is very moving. Puccini (and Illica) create a marvelous tinderbox of a passionate and loving diva, a gifted and sexy artist, and a soulless police chief determined to bend them both to his will. The plot is complex enough to draw the audience in, surprising us  with its subtleties and invigorating us with its characterizations. That Puccini sets this in a time in France when yet again the Republic was at war with the Empire adds a historical richness that is most interesting.

       

      We were fortunate enough to see the Opera North production on its opening night, and it was superlative. I confess that my enjoyment of opera runs primarily (if not solely, prior to this production) to Mozart. We had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera several years when we lived in Short Hills, and I did try to enjoy the variety offered. However, this Opera North production of Tosca changed everything for me: I was fully immersed in the fabulous performances, and disappointed when the three hours of it were over. I found this production more engrossing than the operas I have seen at the Met. This is in largest part due to the adroit handling of an opera with a iarge content musically, the casting of superlative vocalists, and the resulting intin1acy in the smaller-than-opera space of Lebanon Opera House. Truly, it was opera at its best, bar none.

       

      I, among many others, I am certain, eagerly await Opera North's next season in the Upper Valley.

       

      -

       

    • August 25, 2016 - Argus Champion - Caccavaro and Stark join veteran performers in production of ‘Evita’

      By JACLYN GODDETTE

       

      Caccavaro and Stark join veteran performers
      in production of ‘Evita’

       

      NEWPORT – Two students from Newport High School spent their summer immersed in two worlds: a fictionalized version of 20th century Latin American politics and the very real realm of professional drama that brought it to life.

       

      Anna Caccavaro of Croydon and David Stark of Newport, both entering the eleventh grade, performed ensemble roles in Opera North’s production of Evita, working alongside Broadway actors and producers.

       

      A Tony Award-winning musical written by Tim Rice and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita follows Eva Peron’s rise from B-movie actress to First Lady of Argentina.

       

      As two members of an eight-part ensemble, Caccavaro and Stark played members of the Argentinean public, singing and dancing in several songs.

       

      Stark, clad in a baby-blue sweater-vest and bow tie, faithfully circled Eva’s casket and chanted a requiem for her at the beginning of the play, which opens with Eva’s funeral before plunging backwards in time.

       

      Later on stage, Caccavaro, dressed in a frock with her dark hair pulled into a tight braid, waved the Spanish flag to celebrate Eva’s international tour. Together, the two played protesting laborers, and, at other times, Eva’s loyal fans.

       

      For Caccavaro and Stark, performing with the Lebanon based opera company provided them with invaluable experience in professional musical theatre, which they both plan to pursue as careers.

       

      First, the other members of the production imparted some practical advice for becoming better performers, such as learning how to dance and sight-reading for auditions.

       

      At the same time, the performers also stressed that they wish they had been as put together as Caccavaro and Stark are when they were 16 and 17.

       

      The two have extensive background in performance art. Caccavaro has been acting since she was very young, and Stark has been regularly performing since he entered Newport High School. They both take voice and dance lessons and sit on the North Country Community Theatre’s Teen Board.

       

      And though Evita was Caccavaro and Stark’s first professional musical, their career spans multiple community theatre groups, including the Newport Opera House, the Performer’s Playground, and Amplified Arts.

       

      Despite their impressive resumes, Caccavaro and Stark approached rehearsals with some apprehension.

       

      “One thing I was worried about,” said Stark, “was that we were the only teenagers in the production.” The next-youngest ensemble member was 12; the dancers were in their twenties.

       

      However, the entire cast treated Caccavaro and Stark with respect. Director Evan Pappas gave Stark an extra role, and Jenny Ashman, who played Eva, affectionately referred to Caccavaro as part of her “squad.”

       

      “They see you as an actor, and not your grade or your age,” said Stark.

       

      Caccavaro also recounted watching Ashman spend time with the children’s chorus during the opening night cast party, when many people were vying for her attention.

       

      “That’s what I appreciate the most,” said Caccavaro’s mother, Michelle Caccavaro, who teaches English at Newport High School. “They’re learning how to treat people.”

       

      The cast also encouraged Caccavaro and Stark to actualize their dream of pursuing musical theatre.

       

      Stark mentioned to the productions choreographer, Kurt Domoney, that he was planning to major in business and minor in musical theatre in college. Domoney’s response, reported Stark, was to “not second guess” himself and to pursue his passion.

       

      Domoney’s advice was reflective of Opera North’s larger ethos.

       

      “We strive to use local talent in all of our shows and pride ourselves in enlisting performers with diverse experience,” said Production Manager Ashley Barrow.

       

      Additionally, the company is dedicated to making theatre accessible to underserved youth, arranging transportation for schools to attend live performances or else tours the Upper Valley region to bring theatre directly to student.

       

      That same dedication to providing youth with theatre at home helped Caccavaro and Stark land their first major roles.

       

      “Theatre is all about your experience, and I learned how to put myself out there in Newport,” said Caccavaro. She cites her role as an orphan in Newport Opera House’s 2011 production of Annie as being instrumental to her musical theatre background.

       

      David also credits the Performer’s Playground with providing a non-competitive space to develop skills needed for professional theatre.

       

      “We are very lucky to live close to all these amazing opportunities,” said Caccavaro.

       

      “And to have parents willing to drive us,” added Stark, referencing all the times the two relied on their family before Stark got his license.

       

      Caccavaro and Stark also relied on each other. The two are dating, and Stark now drives both of them to and from voice lessons and rehearsals. They reaffirm one another and balance out the other’s personality.

       

      The two will soon return to the hallways of Newport High School, immersing themselves in AP and honors classes and parttime jobs, but the lessons they learned with Opera North will return with them.

       

      Caccavaro is the daughter of George and Michelle Caccavaro and Stark is the son of Alden and Jennifer Stark.

    • August 22, 2016 - Valley News -  Summer Journal: Is the Upper Valley Becoming an Arts Destination?

      Monday, August 22, 2016

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News Staff Writer

       

      Summer Journal: Is the Upper Valley
      Becoming an Arts Destination?

       

       

      In the space of just one month this summer in the Upper Valley it was possible to take in the classic operas Tosca and Daughter of the Regiment, and the Broadway musical Evita, all staged by Opera North at the Lebanon Opera House, and the musical School of Rock at Northern Stage in White River Junction, which featured local kids jamming on guitars, keyboards, basses and drums.

       

      At the Hopkins Center in Hanover audiences could choose from a performance by the Chick Corea Trio, new plays of the New York Theater Workshop in its annual summer residency and an HD screening of Shakespeare Live! from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in England, among other draws.

       

      There were also free concerts on the Dartmouth Green, courtesy of the Hopkins Center, and at Colburn Park in Lebanon. Visitors could stop in at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish to see a new cast of the sculptor’s famous Standing Lincoln or take in the best of a juried regional art exhibition at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon.

       

      “Sleepy” is a word routinely, and lazily, used by the urban press to describe any rural or semi-rural place that isn’t New York, L.A. or Chicago. The assumption, often, is that such areas are bereft of the kind of arts programming found in the big cities — and if there is an arts scene, it must be painfully amateurish.

       

      In the past decade, though, with the continuing revitalization of White River Junction and Lebanon, and the steady presence of Dartmouth College and its arts programs, the Upper Valley has raised its game as a leading regional arts center in northern New England.

       

      The past 10 years have seen the birth of the Center for Cartoon Studies, the White River Indie Festival and the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction and the establishment of Shaker Bridge Theatre in Enfield.

       

      Through luck and design, arts organizations in the Upper Valley have capitalized on existing infrastructure, drawing both on artists and performers who have long lived in the area, and a recent influx of young talent who have grown up here and come back, or moved in from other regions to take advantage of relatively lower rent and a burgeoning arts, music and food scene.

       

      It’s not a stampede, exactly, but there has been a noticeable flourishing of the arts scene in the Upper Valley. Such places as White River Junction and Lebanon, which have made the decision to focus on the arts as a way to bring in new residents and businesses — what is called the “creative economy” — have seen an increased vitality in their downtowns.

       

      A National Governors’ Association report on “Arts & the Economy” stated that the arts and cultural industries bring in jobs and investment and stimulate local economies through tourism and tax revenue.

       

      This raises some questions: What would need to happen for the Upper Valley to earn a reputation as a regional or national arts center? Could the Upper Valley become a Berkshires North if it increased its artistic offerings during the summer? And should local arts organizations even try for that level of saturation?

       

      The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, of course, have had the benefit of decades of such long established, internationally recognized arts venues as Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jacob’s Pillow, the venerable American dance theater founded by Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, and the Williamstown Theater Festival, which presents stage classics and new dramas every summer.

       

      The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MoCA, in North Adams, founded in 1999, has become one of the premier venues in New England for contemporary art and avant-garde performance. The Berkshires also boast such reliable tourist draws as The Mount, the summer home of Edith Wharton.

       

      While Upper Valley arts organizations can’t claim the size or budgets of Tanglewood or Williamstown, they have something that the Berkshires organizations don’t: they’re year-round, and the people who have poured their hearts and souls into them have deep roots in the communities they serve because they live in or near them.

       

      They have also worked hard to move beyond the audiences they expect to attract, to audiences who may not have had routine access to the arts, through educational programs and targeted discount prices.

       

      “I’ve seen what can happen when a community focuses on arts and culture,” said Eric Bunge, who, prior to becoming the managing director of Northern Stage in 2013, held the same position at the Commonweal Theatre Co., in Lanesboro, Minn., in the southeastern corner of the state.

       

      When Bunge and some friends began the company in 1989, the town, with a population of 749, was in a slump, as were other Midwestern farming communities that had been affected by the mid-’80s farm crisis.

       

      Lanesboro, said Bunge, was the kind of town where the only traffic in the course of a few hours on Main Street might be a tractor hauling corn. It wasn’t a place that announced itself as a possible tourist destination or a cultural hub.

       

      But over the decades the Commonweal Theatre acted as an anchor for incoming tourists, and once that happened, Bunge said, businesses, restaurants and bed and breakfasts followed. The town now attracts more than a half-million visitors annually to its cultural venues and natural attractions along the nearby Root River.

       

      “The ripple effect from Lanesboro having that kind of attention was that communities around it saw tremendous benefits,” Bunge said.

       

      Bunge sees the same sense of possibility in this area, particularly in White River Junction. “There’s so much potential here,” he said.

       

      When Bunge visited White River Junction as part of the recruitment process he saw that a large part of groundwork for building a creative economy had already been laid. And the railroad hub had the kind of advantages that Lanesboro never did: proximity to Boston, New York and Montreal, established restaurants, artists’ studios, theaters, a lively gallery scene, historic sites and, perhaps most significantly, a nearby Ivy League college with a performing arts center that draws both internationally-known and up-and-coming artists.

       

      The presence of the Hopkins Center lit the fuse, said Bill Coons, artistic director of Shaker Bridge Theatre, which marks its 10-year anniversary this season.

       

      “Without the Hopkins Center I don’t think this place would have grown the way it has,” Coons said.

       

      Evans Haile, who became executive director of Opera North last year, having served previously as director of the Cape Playhouse on Cape Cod and as conductor of the Gainesville Orchestra in Florida, said “I was not aware of — until I came up last year, frankly — the incredible cultural attributes that are in the Upper Valley.”

       

      The promise is there, Haile said, for the Upper Valley to “be a true cultural destination.”

       

      Since Haile became general director of Opera North, their marketing tracking shows that audiences for their shows come from across the country, as well as locally. Because the younger generations are more mobile, Haile said, they are looking for places to travel in the summer that have a cultural cachet.

       

      What Haile would like to see is the various arts organizations in the Upper Valley “create a kind of a plan so that we can really market among ourselves and market on a national level,” he said.

       

      This might involve local arts organizations working with hotels and restaurants in the area, Haile said.

       

      Or, Haile added, it might involve further, more frequent collaboration with other cultural and historic sites. This summer the Opera North company performed recitals at the Saint-Gaudens site, in Cornish, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock and The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens in Newbury, N.H.

       

      Each concert was tailored to the specific site, and “brought a larger context to making it more of an event, and not just a concert,” Haile said.

       

      Carol Dunne, Northern Stage’s artistic director, came out of a summer theater background, and was for many years the head of the New London Barn Playhouse.

       

      What Dunne sees taking root is not necessarily a Berkshires-like summer festival of arts, but year-round artistic and educational programming. The appetite is there, she said.

       

      Northern Stage’s July presentation of School of Rock was so successful that the company added another date to its four already scheduled, sold-out performances.

       

      “It brought a lot of people into the theater who’d never been there before, and I think they learned more about our company and out-reach program,” Dunne said.

       

      The raised profile of the arts in the Upper Valley springs from a number of sources, said Margaret Lawrence, director of programming at the Hopkins Center.

       

      Last summer the Hopkins Center, as part of its Community Venture Initiative, started the Free For All series of concerts and films held on the Dartmouth Green and in Spaulding Auditorium.

       

      “It’s not just an appetite for the arts but a broader appetite for culture, for engaging in ideas and intellectual pursuits. There’s an appetite for recreation and an appetite for connecting with other people. That creates a creative synergy that resonates and draws even more people because people see it happening. All the ships rise when the water goes up,” Lawrence said.

       

      AVA Gallery and Art Center has similarly seen an increase in visitors, and interest in their educational programming.

       

      Bente Torjusen, the outgoing director, noted that the gallery’s guestbook in recent weeks was signed by visitors from many local communities, and by people from Montreal, South Carolina, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Some artists come from as far as California to study with AVA faculty. And the juried regional exhibitions have, in recent years, attracted artists from 90 communities throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.

       

      Whether all of this translates into building a regionally or nationally recognized arts center is another question, said Torjusen. There are several concerns, she said. The Upper Valley population is not that large, and there is always a struggle to financially support the arts, as well as provide the necessary infrastructure.

       

      “How wonderful that the arts flourish, but the arts also have to be nourished,” Torjusen said.

       

      As the artistic director of Shaker Bridge, Coons has met quite a few people in the area who still haven’t heard of the theater, much less gone to shows there. On the other hand, Coons has also seen subscribers come from as far away as Concord, Woodstock and Bradford, Vt., because the theater fills a particular niche, producing only contemporary plays in an intimate, 78-seat theater in-the-round.

       

      The verdict is still out, however, on whether the Upper Valley can become an arts hub, Coon said.

       

      “I think it wants to be, but I don’t think it is yet. I think there’s a kind of self-awareness of some people in the area that it would be really cool if it did become an arts hub,” he said. “Certainly the demographic is there, but I wonder if the population is large enough to actually support it.”

       

      The Upper Valley has its own qualities, and perhaps local arts organizations shouldn’t stray too far from their mission of serving that population, said Lawrence.

       

      “We’re really different,” she said. “We are a year-round community that doesn’t sizably change in population through the seasons. ... The Berkshires are quite quiet in the winter and it swells exponentially in the summer. It’s filled with summertime-only festivals, which we’re not and probably never will be. ...

       

      “I tend to love the Upper Valley being for the people of the Upper Valley. ... I think we’re a significant artistic community in and of itself, but perhaps one that doesn’t need to exist for outsiders. We want to be careful not to appear like we’re a closed club. Our value is very intrinsic here,” Lawrence said.

       

      Bigger is not always better, Torjusen added. “Growth has to be monitored. You can get too big, too fast. There is an inherent danger there.”

       

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

    • August 19, 2016 - La Scena Musicale - Review: Putting Puccini in His Place

      19 AUGUST 2016

      BY CHARLES GEYER

       

      Review: Putting Puccini in His Place

       

      Puccini qua, Puccini ! Arguably the most popular and successful opera composer in history has been enjoying his typical ubiquity this summer, as a single weekend’s sampling around the Northeast United States will demonstrate.

       

      Friday, August 12 saw the closing performance of the maestro’s Tosca as rendered by Opera North (Lebanon, New Hampshire) in a taut, handsome production. And at Bard College’s final weekend of SummerScape 2016 (Dutchess County, New York), three full days of programming (August 12 through 14) were dedicated to winding up an exploration of “Puccini and His World” (the final weekend subtitled “Beyond Verismo”) with lectures, panel discussions, and concerts, all leading up to a climactic tour de force of scholarship and performance virtuosity called “The Turandot Project.”

       

      Puccini su, Puccini giù!

      ...

       

      Opera: Tosca in New England

       

      Not mentioned at Bard’s “Beyond Verismo” weekend was Puccini’s 1900 Tosca, though it might be asserted that a larval anti-fascist paradigm is coded into that opera – the artistic free spirit pitted against the strongman “before whom all Rome trembled!” Indeed, the opera has been presented in explicit fascist trappings, as in Mark Lamos’ quasi-Nazi-era 1998 production for New York City Opera, or the 1946 Anna Magnani film entitled (yes!) Avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma, in which an opera company performing Tosca in Mussolini’s Italy is also working clandestinely for the anti-fascist Italian resistance.

       

      But overt dramaturgical polemics are not required to render the power and punch of Tosca, as demonstrated by Opera North’s recent production. This company, based in Lebanon, New Hampshire, gave us a Tosca conjured straight-up in its original Rome 1800 setting – opulent Rococo interiors, luxe empire-waist gowns and all. (The impressive scenic, costume, and lighting designs were by Paul Tate dePoo III, Jack Maisenbach, and John Bartenstein, respectively.)

       

      Indeed, the very choice to play it straight provided for a spontaneous combustion of meta-theater. It was fascinating to see Puccini’s tale of blood and sex, with its heavy atmospheric amalgam of Roman passions, Catholic pomp, and Napoleonic-era intrigues, played out amidst the austere and chaste, white-walled Lebanon Opera House, premises that could double as any spacious and traditional Yankee town hall.

       

      Tenor Jeffrey Gwaltney, as the painter and lover, Mario Cavaradossi, was wry, charming and self-assured in Act I, and suffered manfully and expressively through Acts II and III. His voice is robust and full, but negotiated readily the lyric heights of “Recondita armonia” and the elegiac heartbreak of “E lucevan le stelle.”

       

      Baritone Aleksey Bogdanov, as the flagitious Baron Scarpia, crafted a performance of cleverly observed idiosyncrasies and louche gestures. His voice, wonderfully grave and sonorous, gave Scarpia’s Act II credo of rough wooing, “Già, mi dicon venal,” a richly dripping lasciviousness; and throughout his sadistic cat-and-mouse game with Tosca, his head cocked to one side, lips pursed as though sucking marrow from a bone, Bogdanov’s Scarpia was the very embodiment of corrosive and unregenerate will-to-power.

       

      Soprano Sandra López as Floria Tosca gave a refreshing, big-hearted take on the beleaguered diva. There was no want of customary glamor, yet López also mined a rarely discovered youth and innocent credulity in the character – this Tosca could well be traced back to the imaginative and precocious child she must have been, so full of fancy as to make her matriculation to artistry inevitable, yet equally capable of tripping herself up with her own vivid inventions, be they jealous fantasies or lurid pieties. López’s wonderfully nuanced and original take on the angst of “Vissi d’arte” gave the aria dynamic forward narrative thrust, rather than stranding it as a mere showpiece. And her measured, post-homicidal pantomime of superstitious sanctimony, arranging the candles and crucifix about Scarpia’s corpse, was a chilling mix of wide-eyed fascination and transfixed childlike terror.

       

      “It was important to us to make things real,” López says. “After all, Tosca began as a piece of theater – Sardou’s play Tosca, which had fascinated Puccini when he first saw it – and we wanted to make sure our production was still first and foremost a piece of theater, played for reality, moment by moment.” Admirable ambitions, admirably realized.

       

      Director Russell Treyz ably facilitated these ambitions. López’s and Gwaltney’s Act I lovers’ contretemps, for instance, was handled with an operetta-like lightness, enhancing the impact of the subsequently gathering tensions. Conductor Filippo Ciabatti’s vivid, fluid handling of the score mounted Act I to monumental and pulsating purple melodrama after Scarpia’s intrusion, climaxing in a fantastically novel, surround-sound coup de theatre – Scarpia booming onstage, the chorus ranged along the entire expanse of both walls of the opera house, and the wonderfully expressive chamber orchestra supporting the action from the clever logistical asymmetry of its location down audience left.

       

      Acts II and III were equally flush with satisfactions; and throughout the evening, highly effective performances were vouchsafed by Eric Lindsey as the Sacristan; Joshua South as the ill-starred consul Angelotti; Justin Manalad and Trevor Neal as Scarpia’s agents Spoletta and Sciarrone; William Meinert as Cavaradossi’s jailer; and Alexandra Burkot as an ethereal-voiced Shepherd Boy.

       

      Opera North is justifiably proud of its now-34-year history of giving first-rate opera and musical theater to the North Valley area of Vermont and New Hampshire. “We are a true producing company,” notes general director Evans Haile, “not just a presenting company that rents or books in outside productions,” and the company’s energy, integrity and commitment were well deployed in giving Puccini pride of place in New Hampshire this summer.

       

      Opera North’s Tosca played the Lebanon Opera House on August 5, 7, 9 and 12, and was viewed August 12.

    • August 08, 2016 - Valley News - Opera North’s ‘Tosca’ Fits All the Pieces Into a Magical Whole

      Monday, August 08, 2016

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News Staff Writer

      Opera North’s ‘Tosca’ Fits All the Pieces
      Into a Magical Whole

       

       

      LEBANON NH OPERA NORTH

      Opera North’s current staging of Puccini’s Tosca, which will be performed this evening and again on Friday at Lebanon Opera House, is a happy example of a production in which all the elements that go into opera — singing, conducting, direction, sets and lighting — come together in transfixing fashion.

       

      That’s the way it should be, and it’s what you hope for when you go to the theater or opera, but to experience such a miraculous fusion of artistry and craft is rather rare.

       

      I’ve seen Tosca before, in a previous Opera North production in 2005, and on film (the 2001 version with Angela Gheorgiu as the opera diva Tosca, and the great Ruggiero Raimondi in one of his signature roles as the Roman chief of police, Scarpia).

       

      But I can’t pretend that I’m as deeply steeped in the opera as other aficionados who have seen and listened to numerous productions and recordings, and who can recite chapter and verse the virtues of Maria Callas’ Tosca vs. that of Leontyne Price, or Raimondi’s Scarpia vs. the Scarpia of such other great baritones as Bryn Terfel or Tito Gobbi.

       

      In fact, I’ll make a confession that undoubtedly marks me as a philistine.

       

      I have never cared for the voice of Maria Callas, who is strongly identified with the role and widely considered to be one of the greatest Toscas (if not the greatest) of the 20th century. And, further, I hadn’t been moved by the opera, preferring Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and La Bohéme.

       

      But this staging has made me reconsider my previous indifference.

       

      What this Opera North production brings to the fore is the ecstasy of singers inhabiting their roles so completely, both dramatically and theatrically, that the contrivances of the melodrama not only seem plausible, but are also given the full weight of tragedy by Puccini’s soaring melodies.

       

      Based on the eponymous play by the Frenchman Victorien Sardou, the opera is set in the pre-Italian-unification Rome of June 1800, a few days before Napoleon and his army take the city and establish a long occupation.

       

      As the city waits for news, believing that Napoleon has been defeated at the battle of Marengo, there is a fierce struggle for dominance between pro-republican forces, who include the painter Cavaradossi, Tosca’s lover, and those who would hold on ruthlessly to power, exemplified by Baron Scarpia.

       

      Between them is Floria Tosca, a great diva who has been apolitical, preoccupied by love affairs and her career, but is forced by the lecherous Scarpia to take a stand. When Cavaradossi is taken prisoner and tortured by Scarpia’s men, will Tosca sacrifice herself to Scarpia to save the life of her lover?

       

      The superb staging by Russell Treyz and sensitive, nuanced conducting by Filippo Ciabatti show Tosca to its best advantage by doing something that sounds counter-intuitive for an opera that runs a brisk 2 ½ hours, including intermission: they take their time.

       

      What Treyz and Ciabatti accomplish is to make the audience experience each dramatic juncture as if time is slowing down.

       

      This is no small feat because the plot itself moves with lightning speed and abrupt reversals of fortune. Cavaradossi seems to hold all the cards, then he doesn’t. Scarpia seems indomitable, until he isn’t. Tosca’s beauty and talent appear to be enough to save her, until they don’t.

       

      We often say retrospectively that in moments of crisis, we experience time as having expanded; in reality a crisis may last only a few seconds or minutes but in our memory it seems an eternity. Here, something similar happens. We are completely with the protagonists as they ponder the decisions that will change their lives.

       

      Watch the moment when Tosca realizes that there is another way to outmaneuver Scarpia as he crudely demands her body in exchange for Cavaradossi’s life. Watch Cavaradossi, awaiting the firing squad, lament that he has found unmatched happiness with Tosca.

       

      Or watch Scarpia, who pretends to be devout, throw whatever propriety he has to the winds as he declaims, “Tosca, you have made me forget even God,” in the magnificent Te Deum that concludes Act I, and which is one of the greatest set pieces in all of opera.

       

      The counterpoint between the religious imprecations of the chorus singing the Te Deum, church bells pealing in the background, while Scarpia plots to ensnare Tosca, is a scene of exquisite tension.

       

      I defy anyone who is indifferent or hostile to opera to experience the Te Deum and not feel the frisson that comes from great art (and great entertainment) firing our primal emotions, and senses of perception.

       

      This production has three beautifully matched singers in the lead roles: soprano Sandra Lopez as Tosca, tenor Jeffrey Gwaltney as Cavaradossi and baritone Aleksey Bogdanov as Scarpia. All three singers have sung previously with Opera North and have gone on to international careers in North America and Europe.

       

      Lopez has the necessary glamour, fire and eroticism to play Tosca, but she also brings an unexpected and affecting pathos when she realizes, in Act II, that Scarpia has backed her, quite literally, into a corner. In the aria “Vissi d’arte,” in which Tosca sings that, until now, she has thought only of her art, not of the political exigencies that come from living under authoritarian rule, Lopez manages to convey a profound anguish and insight.

       

      And in her scenes with Gwaltney, Lopez moves from the somewhat comical jealousies of Act I, in which she imagines that Cavaradossi is seeing another woman, to the tenderness of a deep, abiding love in Acts II and III.

       

      She is also powerful in the scene when — spoiler alert! — a desperate Tosca kills Scarpia. but feels compelled, because of her religious faith and her horror at what she has done, to perform a kind of final benediction over his corpse.

       

      Gwaltney is particularly moving in his last scenes, as Cavaradossi waits to be executed. His voice rings out piercingly as he cries that never has he loved life so much as when he is about to leave it, an aria that brought me to tears. Here, Gwaltney embodies the true nobility of Cavaradossi’s nature.

       

      Any production of Tosca really rests, however, on its Scarpia, one of opera’s greatest villains. Scarpia is a charismatic mixture of sacrilege, calculation and savagery, and takes great pleasure in them.

       

      This production is blessed to have Bogdanov, who is as fine an actor as he is a singer. Yes, Scarpia tends to throw his head back in mocking laughter that seems to have emerged straight out of the old 1920s silent movie serial Perils of Pauline. But that’s called for in the libretto. And you can’t hold back when you play Scarpia: this is a wicked man.

       

      Bogdanov commands attention the minute he comes on stage in Act I, and he holds it all the way through. He pays attention to the small details: there’s even a flicker of something that looks, for a mere second, like shame, or at least reflection, when Tosca upbraids him for his coarse cynicism.

       

      But Scarpia can’t control his baser instincts, and there’s a certain grim satisfaction to be had from watching him sink lower and lower. In Scarpia’s case, character is destiny. If you detect a slight resemblance between Scarpia and a current presidential candidate, well, this is what makes art endure: the capacity to evoke a resonance between its time and our own.

       

      In the smaller roles of the dissident Cesare Angelotti, the sacristan and Scarpia’s henchmen Spoletta and Sciarrone, singers Joshua South, Eric Lindsey, Justin Manalad and Trevor Neal, respectively, offer strong support. Alexandra Burkot acquits herself credibly as the shepherd boy.

       

      Conductor Ciabatti, who also directs the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, brings out, with an unforced lyricism and clarity the seamless quality of Puccini’s noble score, in which the tolling of bells is sometimes indistinguishable from the thumping cannons of war and gunshots of a firing squad.

       

      Yet he also draws out those moments in which we hear the twittering of birds at dawn, the animated chatter of people in the streets, or the plaintive tune of a shepherd. He brings out the best of the Opera North musicians, who play the score with supple control.

       

      Russell Treyz, who directs the drama, does a stellar job of balancing the vocal demands placed on the singers with the theatrical demand for persuasive and credible acting.

       

      The sets of Paul Tate dePoo III are sumptuous, and the lighting by John Bartenstein highlights the action without calling attention to itself too obviously. This is an outstanding production.

       

      Tosca will be performed this evening and Friday evening at 7:30. For information and tickets ($15 to $88) go to operanorth.org or call the opera house box office at 603-448-0400.

       

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

       

    • August 07, 2016 – Montpelier Times Argus – Opera Review: Opera North’s ‘Tosca’ dark and delicious

      August 07, 2016

       

      Opera Review:
      Opera North’s ‘Tosca’ dark and delicious

       

      Among the grandest of grand opera, Puccini’s “Tosca” has it all: spectacle, beauty, tenderness and exploding passion. And Opera North’s production, which opened Friday at the Lebanon (N.H.) Opera House, has it all in spades.

       

      Three powerful characters are needed to make this opera work, and each were given stellar performances Friday.

       

      The regional professional opera company is presenting “Tosca” in repertory with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” and Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment.” All productions are fully staged with orchestra and, when appropriate, with projected English super-titles.

       

      Tosca,” Giacomo Puccini’s 1900 opera, with its libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa on Victorien Sardu’s play, is a melodramatic tale set in 1800 Naples then being threatened by Napoleon’s invasion. Despite its political conflict, this opera — like most — is about sex.

       

      In short, Floria Tosca, a beautiful and temperamental stage star, is jealous when she catches her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, hiding someone. But it turns out he is hiding an escaped rebel. When Cavaradossi and the rebel are caught, Baron Scarpia, the chief of police, agrees to free the artist. But Tosca must first give herself to Scarpia.

       

      And, this being grand opera, things don’t turn out very well — but it’s, oh, so beautiful.

       

      Opera North’s production, with stage direction by Russell Treyz, delivers the story with its grandeur as well as its tension, beauty and passion. Sandra Lopez was a real heroine as Tosca, both theatrically and musically. Her brilliant soprano could be tender or soar with the orchestra, making Tosca a star.

       

      Tenor Jeffrey Galtney was the perfect romantic Cavaradossi, with his lovely and potent tenor, from tender to passionate. And the two were delightfully feisty and passionate lovers.

       

      Still, any performance of “Tosca” is defined by its Scarpia, the opera’s powerful catalyst. Opera North had a stellar villain in bass-baritone Aleksey Bogdanov with both the physical and vocal presence to terrorize. And Bogdanov did this, singing beautifully, and with grandeur. Now that’s a villain.

       

      The supporting cast was largely excellent, and the chorus and children’s chorus looked and sounded great. And Opera North has long had a very fine orchestra.

       

      With Dartmouth College’s Filippo Ciabatti conducting of the entire production, the first act proved a bit driven, sometimes forgetting to enjoy the beauty. But the pace of the second and final acts flowed more freely, reveling in its dark tragedy, becoming delicious.

       

      And then there was the spectacle. Lavish realistic sets by Paul Tate dePoo III, brilliantly lit by John Bartenstein, and rich period costumes all filled out the picture.

       

      Opera North’s “Tosca” is what grand opera is all about.

       

      Opera North

      Remaining performances are:

      - Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” – Aug. 10 (2 p.m.), 11, 13.

      - Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” – Aug. 10.

      - Puccini’s “Tosca” – today (5 p.m.), 9, 12.

       

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Opera House, 12 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $15-$88; call 603-448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • August 06, 2016 –  DailyUV.com – TOSCA CONVERTS AN OPERA AGNOSTIC

      Saturday, August 6, 2016

      ArtfulEdge  : Susan B. Apel

      Link to article with photos

       

      TOSCA CONVERTS AN OPERA AGNOSTIC

       

      Tosca has opened at Opera North and it's a stunner. Sandra Lopez (Tosca), Jeffrey Gwaltney (Cavaradossi) and Aleksey Bogdanov (Scarpia) are veterans of the Young Artists Program who, in the midst of successful careers, have returned to Opera North to tackle sex, violence, and death in this work by Puccini. Upper Valley patrons will be glad they have come home.

       

      Tosca is a well-known opera and therefore a synopsis of the story should not be too much of a spoiler, but if you are not familiar with it and like surprises, skip the next two paragraphs. Angelotti escapes from prison and hides in the church of Sant' Andrea. The painter Mario Cavaradossi, at his easel in the church, encounters Angelotti and hides him from Scarpia, the chief of the secret police. Cavaradossi is eventually captured; he is imprisoned and tortured to get him to confess to Angelotti's whereabouts. Meanwhile, Scarpia lusts after Floria Tosca, a famed singer and Cavaradossi's lover. He promises to release the painter if Tosca has (what will surely be repellent) sex with him. To save her lover, Tosca agrees but negotiates. She wants Scarpia to sign papers that will guarantee the couple's safe passage from the country. He turns his back to draft the documents. She eyes the knife on the table. Scarpia's character does not extend beyond the end of Act II.

       

      Act III begins with Cavaradossi about to be brought before a firing squad, pining for his love, Tosca. She arrives and tells him she has everything in hand. As per her agreement with Scarpia, the execution is a sham and the soldiers will be firing blanks. She advises Cavaradossi to fall--and realistically!--and to wait until the soldiers have departed, after which their future together can begin. They fire. Scarpia has lied. Cavaradossi is dead. The police move in to arrest Tosca for Scarpia's murder. She jumps over the parapet to her death, "very Thelma and Louise."

       

      It is said that the set begins to tell the story before a line of dialogue is uttered or sung.  Paul Tate dePoo III's set speaks volumes. The church in Act I, Scarpia's palatial rooms in Act II, and the parapet in Act III are magnificently detailed and draw the audience in. The set is rivaled by designer Jack Maisenbach's costumes--rich and lush and not simply worn by but an integral part of each character. The orchestra at Opera North is once again top-notch, conducted by Filippo  Ciabatti. And Puccini's arias soar in the voices of all three principal actors.

       

      If you have been reading my series about Opera North and OSHER's class "Behind the Curtain," you may remember that opera has not been my favorite art form. I have seldom found the stories believable. Tosca was an exception. What stood out for me was not the beautiful operatic singing, which I had expected, but the acting. From the beginning of their verbal dueling and cooing in the church, Lopez and Gwaltney left no doubt that their characters Tosca and Cavaradossi were ardent lovers. She flirted beautifully. He was visibly beguiled, and impatient at her refusal to leave so that he could get to the business of saving Angelotti. (That the verbal lovemaking is taking place in a church is tickling, except to the fussy and disapproving sacristan, played well and comically by Eric Lindsey, hoping that the Madonna "is forgiving." His character could have been one of the nuns at my high school dances.) Cavaradossi's pining for Tosca in Act III is heartfelt and wrenching. Lopez is at her acting best in the scene in which she sees the knife. In short order, her face, tone, and body language convey it all: recognition, possibility, fear, indecision, and finally courage.

       

      It is Bogdanov's Scarpia, however, that will never fade from memory and could haunt my dreams. From the moment he thunders onto the stage to a chorus of jackboots making their way through the audience, he is poisonous. He bullies the sacristan and starts playing mind games with Tosca. His personal brand of evil blossoms in Act II, commanding Cavaradossi's torture and taunting Tosca with his threats of rape. He is utterly hateful, but never cartoonish. As my companion noted, even his groping of Tosca is realistic, and it makes the skin crawl.

       

      If you are nervous about opera, Tosca may be the one to see. It's got drama as well as music. Opera North's productions have supertitles in English. Tickets are available for Tosca's remaining performances on August 7 (5 p.m.), 9 and 12 (7:30 p.m.) through the Opera North website and box office. Go. To quote director Evans Haile, two of the most exciting words in the English language are "live theater."

       

      So ends my review of Tosca and my saga of peeking "behind the curtain" with OSHER, except to mention class member and Opera North veteran (since 1982) James Hughes of West Fairlee VT, husband of local actor Gillian Tyler, in a cameo as the judge in Tosca's Act II. One final related, but culinary, note. At some point in the opera, a character appears onstage to inform Scarpia that Napoleon has been victorious at the battle of Marengo. My companion informed me that it is the same Marengo of the famed chicken recipe. Chicken Marengo is the name that was apparently given to the dish that Napoleon's chef prepared for him after this military victory. Napoleon was said to have liked it so much that he required the chef to make it--without variation--after every subsequent battle. There is a great of deal of lore about the veracity of this tale, and even about the recipe itself, particularly about the inclusion of tomatoes as they were not even available in Italy at the time. Eggs and crayfish? Then yes, now, not so much. Here is a link to what may be the original recipe. Although, arguments still rage . . .

    • August 04, 2016 – Montpelier Times Argus – Theater Review: Opera North mounts spectacular ‘Evita’

      August 04,2016

       

      Theater Review:
      Opera North mounts spectacular ‘Evita’

       

      LEBANON, N.H. — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 mega-hit musical “Evita” is certainly operatic in scope, so Opera North proves an ideal home. The regional professional opera company opened its spectacular production last week at the Lebanon Opera House — one that had its operatic moments as well as those of beautiful intimacy as well.

       

      Evita,” with music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, is a pseudo-biography of Eva Péron (1919-52), second wife of Argentine president Juan Péron. Often more legend than fact, the musical follows Eva’s early life as a poor and struggling actress, her rise to power, her charity work and her eventual death at 33.

       

      Not legend was Argentina’s response to the death of Evita — the name of affection that they had given her. Immediately after, thousands were injured in the stampede to be near her body in Buenos Aires, and all the flower shops ran out. For two weeks, the streets were filled with mourners waiting to view the body of Argentina’s “Spiritual Leader.”

       

      Based on a 1976 rock-opera concert album, the Lloyd Webber musical opened in London’s West End in 1978, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for best musical. On Broadway the next year, it won the Tony Award for best musical. Still, it’s perhaps best known for the 1996 motion picture, starring Madonna, and the show’s anthem, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”

       

      Opera North’s production, seen at Tuesday’s performance, its second, delivered the oversized passion of this work as an opera company does best. (Opera North is presenting “Evita” in repertory with Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” and Puccini’s “Tosca.”)

       

      Directed by Evan Pappas, Opera North’s lavish production benefited for spectacular staging and — no surprise — fine singing, mostly by musical theater veterans. Jenna Ashman gave dimension to Eva, beginning as hard as nails, becoming exalted, then more human in her decline. Her singing was brilliant, coupled with passion and, finally, with intimacy.

       

      As Che, the story’s narrator, Broadway veteran Brandon Rubendall proved charismatic vocally and theatrically. Opera baritone Mark Womack was strong as Juan Péron, but the evening’s most spectacular singing came from opera tenor Mackenzie Gotcher as Augustín Magaldi, Eva’s first mentor.

       

      Unusual for an opera troupe, fine dancing, choreographed by Kurt Domoney, gave the production its joy. No surprise, the chorus, save for some muddy diction, was excellent.

       

      Louis Burkot, Opera North’s artistic director, led the excellent orchestra. The only thing the production lacked was a authentic Latin flavor — but, after all, this is New England.

       

      The physical production successfully mixed Broadway and opera. Paul Tate dePoo III’s realistic but suggestive set morphed with the story; Jill Tarr’s costumes were gorgeous (save for a little “malfunction” halfway through); and John Bartenstein’s lighting created plenty of atmosphere.

       

      Opera North’s “Evita” proved most entertaining.

       

      Opera North

      Remaining performances are:

      — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” – tonight, Aug. 6, 10 (2 p.m.), 11, 13.

      — Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” – Aug. 6 (2 p.m.), 10.

      — Puccini’s “Tosca” – Aug. 5, 7 (5 p.m.), 9, 12.

       

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Opera House, 12 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $15-$88; call 603-448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • August 02, 2016 – Valley News  – Opera Review: Opera North’s ‘Daughter’ Dazzles

      Tuesday, August 02, 2016

      By Alex Hanson, Valley News Staff Writer

       

      Opera Review: Opera North’s ‘Daughter’ Dazzles

       

      LEBANON OPERA HOUSE OPERA NORTH

      With the weak drizzle on Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to see Lebanon Opera House less than full for the opening of Opera North’s production of Daughter of the Regiment.

       

      And once the show began, I felt especially badly for all the Upper Valley music- and theater-lovers who had stayed away and missed a dazzling and bubbly work performed with exceptional charm by the company’s young resident artists. From the first brassy notes from the orchestra, it was clear that the audience was in for a treat, a beautifully sung and bravely acted classic of comic opera.

       

      Gaetano Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment, first performed in Paris in 1840, tells the story of Marie, an orphan found by a regiment of French soldiers and raised among them. Conflict ensues when she falls in love with a young Tyrolean man, Tonio, at the same time the regiment runs into the Marquise of Berkenfield, who’s trying to get back to her estate. The marquise learns Marie’s identity and asserts that she is the girl’s aunt, taking Marie away from her beloved regiment, just as Tonio has won her hand.

       

      Sung in French, with supertitles and dialogue in English, the opera contains the elements of classical comedy, from questions about identity to unlikely contrivances, all of which are resolved in true love. The outcome, as the sportswriters say, is never in doubt.

       

      Daughter hinges on a clutch of key roles, the daughter herself chief among them. Lindsay Ohse inhabited the role with an apple-cheeked, tomboyish delight, swaggering around the stage with the soldiers. She also demonstrated a lovely coloratura soprano voice, from first to last.

       

      As with Shakespearean comedies, what’s so remarkable about Donizetti’s work is its ability to tap into a well of sorrow, even as it makes us laugh. Daughter of the Regiment is full of such moments, lending the work a touching, human scale, despite the powerful, soaring voices of the cast.

       

      Nowhere was this more striking than when Marie takes her leave of the regiment, the soldiers of which she calls her fathers. As she laments, she comes across a pair of the regiment’s standard-issue blue socks, which she hands to a soldier, who dabs his eyes with them.

       

      Tonio, who has just joined the regiment and won the permission of her fathers to seek her hand, cannot follow as her aunt takes her away. His exuberant celebration over becoming a soldier and, soon he hopes, a husband, is dashed.

       

      The song of celebration, Ah, mes amis, quel jour de fete, is a high point of the show, and tenor Andrew Surrena carries it off. The aria’s multiple high Cs are a stern test, and Surrena aces it.

       

      Ohse and Surrena have great stage and vocal chemistry, a quality most evident when Tonio is professing his love to Marie and she responds skeptically (Depuis l’instant ou, dans mes bras).

       

      Heather Gallagher, as the Marquise, and Alex Soare, as Sergeant Sulpice, Marie’s chief protector, play the grown-ups among the young soldiers. Gallagher captures her character’s flightiness, pride and, ultimately, shame and mercy, while Soare projects the world-weary authority and integrity of a senior enlisted man.

       

      The second act opens with Marie in her aunt’s mansion, all dolled up but still very much the former canteen girl of the regiment. She is to be married off to the son of the Duchess of Krakenthorp.

       

      “Marie, please try to be a good girl,” the Marquise pleads.

       

      “They have tried to win me over with jewels and clothes,” Marie sings, but it’s no use. “I guess I must learn to live with my suffering.”

       

      The regiment, with Tonio, marches in to save the day, but not before the Duchess, played by Broadway veteran Maureen Brennan, sings Stephen Sondheim’s marvelously bawdy I Never Do Anything Twice, a song that points up the uncommon chasteness of a comic opera about a young woman living with a regiment of soldiers. Brennan, who seems a slight figure, even among the many young performers on the stage, has a big voice, and drew some of the biggest laughs of the night.

       

      “We will never allow her to marry someone she does not love,” the regiment sings. The Marquise relents, singing “I will not sacrifice my family for pride.”

       

      Daughter of the Regiment is one of the most complete entertainments I’ve experienced in the Upper Valley, in the sense that it was thoroughly transporting to its time and place. The performers were so captivating that the opera was absorbing from beginning to end.

       

      Some of the key roles are shared: For example, Ohse is sharing the role of Marie with Martha Eason, and Surrena shares Tonio with Martin Clark.

       

      But this production is in the sure hands of conductor Louis Burkot and director Evan Pappas; the other singers will no doubt be as able and as well prepared as the ones who appeared on Sunday.

       

      Performances of Opera North’s production of Daughter of the Regiment are scheduled for tonight and Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m., at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets ($15 to $88) are available at the opera house box office at 603-448-0400, or at operanorth.org.

       

      Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

    • August 02, 2016 – Montpelier Times Argus – Opera Review: ‘Daughter of the Regiment’ just plain fun

      August 02,2016

      By Jim Lowe, Staff Writer

       

      Opera Review:
      ‘Daughter of the Regiment’ just plain fun

       

      LEBANON, N.H. — “Daughter of the Regiment” is one of those delightful operas totally lacking in moral pretension. It’s just plain fun — and so was Opera North’s effervescent production that opened Sunday at the Lebanon Opera House. And that’s not to mention the singing by the regional professional opera company’s young Resident Artists, some of which was spectacular.

       

      Remaining performances of Donizetti’s 1840 bel canto opera, which is being presented in repertory with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” and Puccini’s “Tosca,” are Wednesday, Saturday (2 p.m.) and Aug. 10. Performances are fully staged with orchestra, sung in the original French with English super-titles, with spoken dialogue in English.

       

      The libretto, by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard, follows young Marie, orphaned by war and adopted by the French regiment that found her. Of course, the inevitable happens, a boy. After Tonio joins the regiment to be near her, and Marie says she loves him, the regiment reluctantly supports her betrothal.

       

      However, bliss doesn’t last. Along comes the Marquise of Berkenfield, claiming to be her aunt, and whisks Marie off to her chateau. The Marquise not only wants to domesticate Marie, she has a wealthy duke for her to marry. Of course, this is comic opera, so it turns out just fine — after a lot of high jinks.

       

      Daughter of the Regiment” is a lot like a Broadway musical, with better music and spectacular singing. There is a double cast, as these performers are from Opera North’s professional training program. With them, stage director Evan Pappas plumbed the opera’s comic and romantic depths. They were joined by a fine professional orchestra, and all was conducted Louis Burkot, Opera North’s artistic director.

       

      Brilliant best describes coloratura soprano Lindsay Ohse’s performance as Marie on Sunday, as she articulated the pyrotechnics as well as the lyricism beautifully. And she was a delightful comic actress to boot. (Martha Eason will sing Wednesday’s and Saturday’s performances.)

       

      Tenor Andrew Surrena, as Tonio, sang with rich warmth, particularly in the second act, but was uncomfortable with some of the high notes. Still, he enjoyed the role of the story’s hero. (He will be replaced by Martin Clark on Wednesday and Saturday.)

       

      A particular delight was bass-baritone Alex Soare as Sergeant Sulpice, Marie’s father-figure. Soare’s deep vocal and physical presence seemed to anchor the performance. Mezzo-soprano Heather Gallagher was great fun, and an able singer as the haughty but confused Marquise. (She will be replaced Natalie Rose Havens Wednesday and Saturday.)

       

      A delightful, surprise bonbon was provided at the betrothal party by Broadway singer Maureen Brennan as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, assisted on keyboard by Evans Haile, Opera North’s general director.

       

      The chorus, made up partially of Resident Artists, was excellent, and funny. The traditional physical production, with set by David Arsenault, lighting by John Bartenstein, and costumes by Jill Tarr and Stephen Lieboff, was worthy of regional opera anywhere.

       

      Opera North’s “Daughter of the Regiment” is a delightful evening of entertainment, with beautiful music and brilliant singing to boot.

       

      Opera North

      Remaining performances are:

      — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” – Aug. 2, 4, 6, 10 (2 p.m.), 11, 13.

      — Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” – Aug. 3, 6 (2 p.m.), 10.

      — Puccini’s “Tosca” – Aug. 5, 7 (5 p.m.), 9, 12.

       

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Opera House, 12 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $15-$88; call 603-448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

    • August 01, 2016 – Valley News – Theater Review: Opera North Makes the Best of ‘Evita’

      Monday, August 01, 2016

      By Alex Hanson

      Valley News Staff Writer

       

      Theater Review:
      Opera North Makes the Best of ‘Evita’

       

      LEBANON OPERA HOUSE OPERA NORTH

      Evita has all the ingredients a great musical requires, most notably a great story about a provincial girl who seizes the main chance and ends up with power and fame at great cost, both to herself and the people she leads.

       

      And Opera North’s production, which opened Friday night at Lebanon Opera House, has everything a great production needs, including magnetic performers in the lead roles, great singing, dancing, music and sets.

       

      How then, I wondered at intermission, did it feel so flat? Evita, despite its inherent virtues, is not a great musical, or even a good one. The efforts of an excellent cast and Opera North’s considerable talent and effort couldn’t redeem Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1979 fumble-fest of cliched lyrics and — with the exception of one indelible song — inconsequential melodies.

       

      Evita, and other Lloyd Webber shows, are always asking audiences to love them. His singers declare themselves not to each other, which is the way drama works best, but to the seats. Every note cries out its meaning, leaching all the dramatic tension out of the proceedings. In his opening night introduction, Evans Haile, Opera North’s general director, reminded patrons that “it is the season of the lady,” with three productions featuring strong heroines. Eva Peron, who slept her way from the Argentine pampas to Buenos Aires and into the president’s mansion, deserves better.

       

      So, too, do Opera North’s performers. Jenny Ashman is regal and imperious, even as the young Maria Eva Duarte, who finds a way to escape her small-town life and get to the Argentine capital, where she became an actress and a radio host. Her voice conveys the young Evita’s warmth and desire, but never lacks for steel.

       

      As Che, Brandon Rubendall is the ghostly narrator in the musical’s machinery, explaining and coloring bits of Evita’s life. Rubendall seems a perfect fit as the wiry Argentine-born revolutionary, his graceful stage presence able to convey both a caustic anger at repression under the Peron regime and sympathy both to Eva Peron and to the Argentine people.

       

      Next to these two, even Juan Peron, who was elected president of Argentina three times, seems a smaller figure, and Mark Womack conveys just that. In Evita’s telling, Peron was pushed to seek power by his wife, who wanted to stay in the light, in what she calls “the big apple,” of Buenos Aires. Womack’s Juan Peron comes off as a man who can be pushed by a strong-willed woman.

       

      Conductor Louis Burkot, Opera North’s longtime artistic director, and Evan Pappas, who directed, deserve credit for wringing the available pathos out of the spongy material available to them.

       

      Technically, the production is everything one might wish for. The set, by Paul Tate dePoo III, is largely unornamented, but functional, with a pair of broad staircases leading to a balcony. Jill Tarr’s costumes, crucial to a musical in which the lead character sings, “They need to adore me, so Christian Dior me,” (one of the show’s handful of clever lines), are excellent. Particularly effective was the makeup, credited to Stephen Lieboff and Allyse Good, required to age a young singer into a woman dying of cervical cancer at the tender age of 33.

       

      All of these details were in service to a spectacle, rather than a great drama, and so it was spectacular, in visuals and in volume, but not great.

       

      Evita began life as a rock opera album in 1976, and that origin is telling. The score is heavy with what sounds, not surprisingly, like undistinguished mid-1970s rock.

       

      The show reached Broadway in 1979, where it opened to mixed reviews but nevertheless received many Tony Award nominations. The new musicals that year were very weak: The other nominees for Best Musical, which Evita won, were Barnum, A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine and Sugar Babies. Not exactly West Side Story or South Pacific.

       

      Its production at Opera North, as well made as it is, seems a bit of a mystery. A recent revival, in 2012, starring Ricky Martin and the Argentine-born singer Elena Roger, ran for only 46 weeks and didn’t recoup its initial investment, according to news reports at the time.

       

      Writing for the New York Observer, critic Rex Reed began his review of the revival with this: “Can nothing be done, once and for all, to get rid of Evita?” It was downhill from there.

       

      He had a point. Rice’s book is rife with stale language. In the first act he rhymes “splash” with “cash” and “trash,” calling to mind fourth-grade poetry. Later, after Eva Peron has risen to power, Rice writes that she is “dressed to the nines,” which the audience can already see, and in the next line the heroine says that she’s “at sixes and sevens.” Could he toss a few more numbers in there?

       

      I think I understand Evita’s staying power. It’s a bit tawdry, even trashy, a kind of guilty pleasure.

       

      What’s more, Evita contains a single sticky melody, from Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. It was the lone scrap of song that stayed with me from Friday night’s opening performance.

       

      I was curious about what made that song so memorable, so I called my sister, a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She explained that it’s written in a major key and is built around the tonic triad of do, mi and sol. It follows a rising line before settling down to a lower do, which helps keep the song aloft. All these qualities make Don’t Cry for Me a serious earworm, and rather a pleasant one. Its originality also stands out from all the other music in the show.

       

      It’s a shame that Lloyd Webber and Rice couldn’t have made more of Eva Peron’s story. Maybe someone else should take a crack at it. A play, even another musical that gets at her mixture of sensuality and opportunism, is worth another try, especially today, when a woman is within reach of the leadership of the free world.

       

      In the program notes, Pappas likens the title character to Hillary Clinton, “a woman who, like Eva Peron, is as much admired by some as she is not by others.” (Though he noted that the comparison ends there.)

       

      But the closer contemporary analog might be Melania Trump, an indifferently educated woman from the hinterlands of Slovenia who grabbed an opportunity to live in wealth and glamor in the Big Apple. And like Eva Peron, Melania Trump is married to a populist strongman. Trump is on the right, rather than the left, and Melania is not the magnetic figure Eva Peron was. Time will tell if she repeats Eva Peron’s rise to political power.

       

      Performances of Opera North’s production of Evita are slated for Aug. 2, 4, 6, 11 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets ($15 to $88) are available through operanorth.org or the Lebanon Opera House box office at 603-448-0400.

       

      Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

    • July 31, 2016 – DailyUV.com – EVITA SINGS

      Sunday, July 31, 2016 

      ArtfulEdge  : Susan B. Apel

      Link to article with photos

       

      EVITA SINGS

       

      Opening night. Evita. Except for a handful of seats, a packed Lebanon Opera House. An audience dressed in best and eclectic Upper Valley style: some shorts here, a tux there, glamorous shawls, Teva sandals. Evita groupies, Evita virgins, and people like me seeing the musical for the second or third time.

       

      Here are the standouts and reasons to buy a ticket:

       

      1.  Evita sings. You already know the iconic Don't Cry for Me, Argentina. That's a mere bonus. Jenny Ashman sings with power and finesse throughout the entire performance. Among her best scenes are her duets with Juan Peron (Mark Womack--also gifted with a great voice), and with Che.

       

      2. Che acts. Brandon Rubendall supplies the counter-narrative to the official Evita storyline. Che has always been my favorite character in the play, full of cynicism, speaking his truth in every scene. He is  relentlessly pesky that way. Watch him, in the beginning requiem, blaspheme away the grief that surrounds Evita's death with Oh, What A Circus, drumming his hands in sacrilege on her coffin. Rubendall's face alone registers dozens of different shades of doubt and bemusement.

       

      3. Dancers--oh my! Sex sizzles in the tangos and pasos dobles; other numbers are energetic. Feet get thrust in the air higher than heads. Argentina's upper crust shuffles carefully and only horizontally, always in a pack, their faces and everything else appropriately clenched. Watch the soldiers--twice--muscular arms and legs sending out a visceral percussion from the stage.

       

      The cast of Evita

      Everything works in this fast-paced production, including the live orchestra under the direction of Louis Burkot, and except for the play's closing lines, which have always seemed awkward. The set is inventive and together with John Bartenstein's lighting serves every scene. Kudos to Jill Tarr, costume designer who chose Evita's regal necklace and gown for her presentation on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. There is a brief, charming scene with a small children's chorus--Upper Valley kids on stage.

       

      Evita originated in London's West End, has been on Broadway more than once, and was turned into a movie starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. Below is a fun chart showing which actors played the principal roles in each production. There are surprises. The original Che--always thought to be evocative of Che Guevara, and one would think Argentinian at the very least--was portrayed by Colm Wilkinson, a slight not at all dark Irish-born tenor (who would, and maybe has if you've seen him, wow you in his role of Jean Valjean in Les Mis).

       

      There is some controversy about the story. Some critics argue that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice based this work on earlier, meaner biographies of Eva Peron, and that she was in fact purer of heart than portrayed. I like the ambiguity and the questions it raises. Do we castigate Evita for "sleeping her way to the top," or applaud her ambition for finding footing in the only way possible for women of that era? Does The Money Keep Rolling In (And Out) and did it find its way into Peron's Swiss bank account or into the coffers of charities that helped the poor descamisados (the shirtless ones). Or a little of both?

       

      In this electoral season with a woman presidential candidate and the other I won't mention by name, one might search out parallels in this highly political play. For myself, I was so weary from watching both conventions that my political gears were too stripped to do that. And you don't have to. You can go to hear the singers sing, the actors act, and those divine dancers dance.

       

      Performance dates and times for Evita are August 2, 4, 6, 11 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., and August 10 at 2 p.m. To get tickets or for more information about this and Daughter of the Regiment and Tosca, go to Opera North's website.

    • July 28, 2016 – New York Times – Unconventional Summer Stars, Including a Helicopter

      JULY 28, 2016 - Excerpt

      By MICHAEL PAULSON, STEVEN McELROY, ERIK PIEPENBURG and LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

      Link to full article with photos

       

      Unconventional Summer Stars,
      Including a Helicopter

       

      ...

       

      Brandon Rubendall

      An actor’s lucky break ought not include an actual fracture, but that’s the case for Brandon Rubendall. He made his Broadway debut in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” — and was one of its several performers who got hurt. Mr. Rubendall broke his right toe, fractured another bone in his foot and sprained all his other toes, too. He’s even got a tattoo of a spider on his foot, to serve as a reminder of his painful experience.

       

      He has healed, but there were repercussions. “I never really got my danceability back,” Mr. Rubendall said in a telephone interview. “Yes, I could still dance and move and I went on to do other shows but I wasn’t dancing like I was before and I thought, ‘Wait a second, I don’t think I can do this as long as I thought I could.’”

       

      Though he went from “Spider-Man” to “Anything Goes” and, then, “Disaster!,” Mr. Rubendall has been an ensemble player (his impressive turn as a scantily clad Elvis in “Broadway Bares” a couple of years ago notwithstanding), and that broken toe had him thinking he needed to seek principal roles if he wanted career longevity.

       

      Now, Mr. Rubendall has his chance, playing the magnetic and provocative Che in “Evita,” part of the Summerfest at Opera North, in Lebanon, N.H. “I’m really excited to attack this,” he said. “It’s a beast of a role; the hardest one I’ve played yet.”

       

      And, as befits a role originated on Broadway by Mandy Patinkin, it asks Mr. Rubendall to do more than dance.

       

      “What a lot of people don’t realize about Brandon is that he’s a fantastic singer,” said Evans Haile, the general director of Opera North, where “Evita” runs through Aug. 13. “It’s so easy to pigeonhole people and I’ve made a conscious effort not to do that.”

       

      Mr. Rubendall, 31, grew up in Reading, Pa., and started dancing at 5, because he “just truly loved to dance,” he said, not because of any family pressure. When he finished high school and wanted to skip college and get onstage, his mother was reluctant. “But I was so set in my ways she just said ‘I’m going to let you do what you want to do but if you don’t book anything you have to go to school; you have a year,” Mr. Rubendall recalled. “I’ve been working ever since.” — STEVEN McELROY

       

      ...

    • July 28, 2016 – DailyUV.com – PAINT-FLECKED, SAWDUST-SPECKED: OPERA NORTH BACKSTAGE

      Thursday, July 28, 2016

      ArtfulEdge: Susan B. Apel

      Link to article with photos

       

      PAINT-FLECKED, SAWDUST-SPECKED:
      OPERA NORTH BACKSTAGE

       

      It takes one enormous and talented village . . .

       

      "You can always take more underwear off the clothes line if you need to," says director Evan Pappas to the female lead in Daughter of the Regiment, presumably to provide her with a bit of onstage activity while singing. "And I need those stickers off that wooden box--they're not 1800s."  He jumps onto the stage and scrapes at them with his fingernails. We, members of an OSHER at Dartmouth class, are seated at the back of the opera house in the dark, watching and eavesdropping on the piano tech rehearsal of one of the upcoming Opera North productions.

       

      I have previously written about the number of actors required for a season, like this one, that is staging 3 major productions (Evita, Daughter of the Regiment, and Tosca) over the next few weeks. I will bet that in the back of your mind you know vaguely that there are more people behind the scenes, doing whatever it is those folks behind the scenes do. I humbly suggest that you don't know the half of it.

       

      Our introduction begins outside at the back of the Lebanon Opera House, where sound designer James McCartney stands next to a working table saw and explains how many hats he must wear in configuring the video and audio systems needed. He also tells a story about working with actor Yul Brynner (The King and I) who tried to have a stage hand fired for whistling backstage. Don't even think about doing it.

       

      On the morning of a day-long rehearsal, an assortment of non-actors, many in shorts and paint-flecked, sawdust-specked T-shirts, are making all 3 of these productions come to life. Craig Mowery, the technical director, is explaining why he has rejected a borrowed coffin for Evita because it was too large and out of sync with the historical place and time. He is auditioning another coffin. A pile of small styrofoam globes are in the process of becoming cannonballs, because of course no one wants to lug the real things on and off stage, let alone at the necessary record speed. One set for the matinee of Evita, for example, will need to be struck and another replaced within a 2-hour window for that same evening's performance of Tosca. The constant set changes will continue at that pace throughout Opera North's three week season. Mowery ensures that everything can be done, even in a relatively small 28 foot stage.

       

      Inside, a few young people snake their way through a bottleneck backstage; our guide Evans Haile, Opera North's director, identifies them as some of the dancers, but we would have known just from watching them move. Stephen Leiboff, wig designer and his assistant, Allyce Good, (featured image, above) are stitching 1940s hats and styling wigs for Evita. They explain that hair is part of each character--serious, comic, romantic--and are demonstrating how flowered hair ornaments will be used in the tango scene.

       

      During a rehearsal break, David Arsenault talks about the challenge of repurposing pieces of the set of one show for use in the other two. The lighting designer is huddled over the computer system, working out how and which parts of the stage to illuminate, when to add color and even texture to the set. Pappas, who is directing both Evita and Daughter speaks of the "colliding worlds" of dancers, opera singers, and local community actors who must blend to produce a harmonic whole.

       

      I still don't know the half of it, but am beginning to get the idea. In addition to every behind-the-scenes person with a title, there are swarms of others, pressing and hanging up costumes, combing through warehouses for just the right table, labeling the ropes of the pulley system that raise and lower the scenery.

       

      As with every theatrical production, the sweat, pricked fingers and smashed thumbs, the long hours and thousands of human interactions, the pieces of rope and fabric and plywood, are what painstakingly make the magic happen. It will be there on July 29, as will I, on the season's premiere night. It all begins with the opening scene of Evita, and whichever coffin makes it to the stage.

       

      For tickets, schedules, and general information, contact Opera North via its website.

    • July 21, 2016 – Rutland Herald – This Just In: ‘Tosca,’ ‘Evita’ & ‘Daughter of the Regiment’

      July 21,2016

      By Jim Lowe

      Link to article with photos

       

      This Just In – ‘Tosca,’ ‘Evita’
      & ‘Daughter of the Regiment’

       

      Despite its deep, dark tragedy, or perhaps because of it, Puccini’s “Tosca” remains one of the most popular operas of all time.

       

      “I think we see ourselves in it, especially in today’s world,” explains Russel Treyz, who is stage-directing the Opera North production. “Human beings being under the power, the control, the whim of politicians, the military and the political, is so apt and present to today.

       

      “Ultimately, Tosca’s plea in ‘Vissi d’arte (I lived for art)” is just let me be, let me alone, I just want to practice my art, and yet Tosca’s caught up in the whole politics of it all. We are involved whether we want be or not.”

       

      And then there’s Puccini’s music.

       

      For its 34th season, Opera North will present “Tosca” in repertory with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” and Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment,” at Lebanon Opera House July 9 to Aug. 13. All productions are fully staged with orchestra and, where appropriate, with English super-titles projected above the stage.

       

      Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” with libretto by Luigi Illica and Giussepe Giacosa, is set in 1800 Rome. The love interest is the actress Tosca and the artist Mario Cavaradossi, threatened by the evil chief of police, Baron Scarpia. The hot-blooded opera contains torture, murder and suicide, as well as some of Puccini’s best-known arias.

       

      “Puccini’s arias start very close to speech and he keeps building them until they are soaring,” Treyz said. “Puccini reaches into my soul, and discovering how he’s doing it brings me into it further. I look in wonderment at what he has done.”

       

      Fillippo Ciabatti is conducting, while Opera North veteran Sandra Lopez sings the title role. Jeffrey Gwaltney plays Cavaradossi, and Aleksey Bogdanov is Scarpia.

       

      Evan Pappas, who directed last season’s “West Side Story,” will be stage-directing both “Daughter of the Regiment” and “Evita.”

       

      “‘Daughters of the Regiment’ is one of my favorite buffo operas,” he said. “I think she’s such a great gal. She’s lovely, she’s loyal, and she’s innocent.”

       

      Gaetano Donizetti’s 1840 comic opera, written in French, is the tale of Marie, who was adopted by a regiment after they found her abandoned as an infant on a battlefield. A tomboy, she goes through a series of misadventures before she can marry Tonio, the man she loves. It’s frothy fun.

       

      “I’m having a good time throwing in my own touches,” Pappas said. “It’s just such a fun, light-hearted evening. Donizetti didn’t get good notices, but now it’s one of the most done operas.”

       

      The cast of young up-and-coming resident artists and orchestra will be conducted by Louis Burkot, Opera North’s artistic director.

       

      “This gives me a chance to show off my farcical side,” Pappas said. “You have to do comedy with great heart. Then you have ‘Evita,’ which is a little touch of everything, but it’s darker, which I love.”

       

      He added, “So I love the fact that I can switch hats and gears with these shows — because I was like that as an actor.”

       

      Lloyd Webber’s 1977 Broadway hit “Evita,” with lyrics by Tim Rice, celebrates the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón, her early life, rise to power, charity work and eventual death. Also successful was the 1996 motion picture starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

       

      Burkot conducts the Opera North production, while Jenny Ashman is Eva. Mark Womack plays Juan Perón, while Brandon Rubendall is Che Guevara.

       

      “It’s like a playground. I get to share with the actors and the audience those elements that drive me,” Pappas said. “I even played Che back when — and that was a thrill.”

       

      Opera North

      — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” – July 29, Aug. 2, 4, 6, 10 (2 p.m.), 11, 13.

      — Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” – July 31 (5 p.m.), Aug. 3, 6 (2 p.m.), 10.

      — Puccini’s “Tosca” – Aug. 5, 7 (5 p.m.), 9, 12.

       

      All performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Opera House, 12 N. Park St. in Lebanon, N.H. Tickets are $15-$88; call 603-448-0400, or go online to www.operanorth.org.

       

    • july 20 – Vermont Standard – Photos from concert

      A performance to celebrate the 100 Years of National Park Service was held by Opera North at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock. The free event encouraged visitors to bring a chair and a picnic to enjoy the show. Click here to see Rick Russell’s Photos.

       

      A portion of these photos will appear in the July 21, 2016 print edition of the Vermont Standard.

    • July 14, 2016 – Vermont Standard – BILLINGS TO HOST FREE NATIONAL PARKS CENTENNIAL CONCERT

      Friday, July 15, 2016

      By Curt Peterson, Standard Correspondent

       

      Free National Parks Centennial Concert

       

      On Aug. 25 the National Park System will reach its century mark, and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park is going all-out on Sat., July 16 for a centennial celebration, including an outdoor concert and two special exhibits, all free to the public.

       

      “We’re all set,” Opera North General Director Evans Haile said on Monday. “We’ve got a 60-foot by 40-foot tent set up in case it rains, a shuttle bus to get visitors from the parking lot at Billings Farm to the Billings Mansion for the concert and back again.”

       

      Patrons are invited to bring picnics, blankets and portable chairs so, if the weather is nice, they can enjoy the show outside the tent. Chairs will be provided inside the tent if inclemency requires people to sit under cover.

       

      “We’ve set it up so you will be able to see and enjoy the show from any angle, inside or outside,” Haile said. Restrooms will be close by, and the shuttle will disembark riders right at the tent site.

       

      Opera North titled the show, “American Summer: A Centennial Celebration of the National Park Service.”

       

      “We’re bringing 10 singers from our core company and resident artists group,” Lisa Morrison, marketing director for Opera North, said.

       

      Opera North, which operates from the Lebanon Opera House in New Hampshire, hosts a Resident Artists Program from which some of the performers will come on Saturday. Fifteen to twenty young and professional artists were picked this year from over 700 applicants from all over the country. They will spend six weeks this summer learning more about their craft and working together as they perform in three “mainstage productions” and participate in outreach programs such as the celebration this Saturday at Billings Farm. The apprentices are given compensation and housing so they can focus on their artistic progress.

       

      Opera North is in its thirty-fourth year and has given free performances to over 1,500 students in the Upper Valley in an effort to keep and enhance arts in education.

       

      Supporting the singers, pianists Andrew Gerle and Haile will provide music on the ivories. The two have performed together in sixty cities and work very well together, according to Haile, who has been heading Opera North for two years and hopes to stay a long time. As General Director he chooses productions, manages casting artists, staff and creative teams and negotiates union contracts. His accomplishments have been cited in the Boston Globe, New York Times and New Yorker Magazine, according to his website.

       

      Music will include songs by Aaron Copeland from the musical “The Tender Land,” and by Jerome Kern from “Show Boat,” all with the theme of connecting national parks with the arts.

       

      Rick Kendall, who has recently been named superintendent of both Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and the National Park Service Stewardship Institute, which is headquartered at Billings Farm, will present a talk about the first century of the National Park System, its importance and its inspiration of poets, painters and composers.

       

      The celebration event begins at 6 p.m.

       

      The NPS Stewardship Institute is a collaborative of park system leaders discussing how to secure the long-term future success of the national parks.

       

      “We have a very interesting outdoor art exhibit that includes 18 sculptures,” Christina Marts, NPS deputy superintendent said. “The pieces carry through the theme of the national parks and art. They represent what people will see in the various parks when they visit them.”

       

      The New England Sculpture Association helped put the exhibit together. The artists use various materials, including wood and steel.

       

      In the Wood Barn, Marts said, there will be a special exhibit of the Billings Family’s carriage collection, each carriage having actually been used on the various roads and trails that cross the farm.

       

      Both special exhibits are very near the show tent and part of the centennial event.

       

      “Folks should come for the day, bring their families and a picnic, see the special exhibits, and finish the day with our wonderful program,” Haile said. “It’s a unique experience that is going to happen only every hundred years, so it makes a visit very worthwhile.”

       

      The national parks celebration is part of Opera North’s Summerfest 2016 program. Their next local event will be “Peter Fox Smith and Friends” at the Woodstock Historical Society on Aug. 8. Fox Smith will read poetry with a summer theme from his published books. He hosts “Saturday Afternoon at The Opera” on Vermont Public Radio.

    • July 13, 2016 – Valley News – Opera North’s Season Features Three Proud Heroines

      By Nicola Smith

      Valley News Staff Writer

      Wednesday, July 13, 2016

      Link to article with photos

       

      Opera North’s Season Features
      Three Proud Heroines

       

      LEBANON NH –  OPERA NORTH

      Although Opera North has already begun to stage concerts this month as part of its Summerfest, its mainstage productions, the “opera” in Opera North, are yet to come.

       

      “Passion, power and pride” are the three words that Evans Haile, Opera North’s general director, uses to describe the company’s 34th season, which begins July 29 with the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera Evita, continues with the opening on July 31 of the comic opera Daughter of the Regiment, sung by the company’s Resident Artists, and ends with the classic Puccini opera Tosca, which has its opening night on Aug. 5.

       

      That the three productions feature three vital, strong women as protagonists is not entirely coincidence, said Haile, who, together with Artistic Director Louis Burkot, looks for themes to unify each season.

       

      Tosca is the passion, Evita the power and Marie, the heroine of Daughter of the Regiment, the pride, said Haile.

       

      But really, the words fit any of the women, all of whom live during periods of intense, unpredictable political upheaval. The echoes from then to now are uncanny, proof that great art (and entertainment) resonates long past the era in which it was made, Haile said.

       

      There’s Tosca, the opera singer who, in early 19th century Rome under French occupation, vows to save her lover Cavaradossi, an escaped political prisoner, from the brutal machinations of the Roman chief of police Scarpia, who’s intent on making Tosca his own. There’s Eva Peron, who helps her husband Juan Peron rise to power in late 1940s Argentina and who becomes a polarizing, mesmerizing figure in her own right. And there’s Marie, a canteen girl in a French regiment occupying the Swiss Tyrol during the Napoleonic wars, who falls in love with Tonio, a Tyrolean who becomes a prisoner of the regiment.

       

      “This is one of the summers that if you like musical theater at all, all three of these pieces have something for you: familiar tunes, powerful characters and great stories,” Haile said.

       

      And great singers, Haile said. The principals in Tosca (Sandra Lopez, Jeffrey Gwaltney and Aleksey Boganov) all got their start at Opera North and have gone on to sing with major companies across the world, including Washington National Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Finnish National Opera, Glimmerglass Festival and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

       

      “We’re proud that not only are these our principals, but they have all been with us before and have major international careers — and they’re coming back and that says a lot,” Haile said.

       

      The production of Evita, which stars Jenny Ashman as Evita, Mark Womack (seen at Opera North two years ago as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady) as Juan Peron and Brandon Rubendall as Che Guevara, brings in Broadway theater veterans.

       

      Daughter of the Regiment will feature two casts from Opera North’s nationally respected Resident Artists program, which attracts thousands of applicants annually.

       

      The performance side is not the only part of Opera North that has seen expansion and development. Haile and Burkot have brought in talent to cast fresh eyes on the stage and musical direction, and scenic design.

       

      This season a young Italian conductor, Filippo Ciabatti, leads the orchestra for Tosca. The company has turned to Broadway veteran David Arsenault, who designs the sets for Daughter of the Regiment, and rising star designer Paul Tate dePoo III, who designs Tosca and Evita. Actor and Off-Broadway director Evan Pappas, responsible for last year’s Opera North production of West Side Story stages both Evita and Daughter of the Regiment. And Russell Treyz, who directs Tosca won a New York Drama Desk award for directing his first off-Broadway play Whitsuntide.

       

      Staging such classics of musical theater as West Side Story and Evita in what had been for many years a venue for high opera was a gamble that paid off, said artistic director Louis Burkot.

       

      “One of the things we did that has been so beneficial and has reaped rewards much more than we thought it would was introducing musical theater into the repertoire. It has increased the audience of new people,” Burkot said.

       

      Bringing new audiences to Opera North is an integral part of the company’s longterm objectives, both Haile and Burkot said.

       

      In recent years the company has expanded its offerings to the community with concerts throughout the Upper Valley that precede the August performance schedule, and has sought to attract more patrons from outside the area, positioning itself as a regional attraction.

       

      “We are as much out there and part of the community in our collaborations with other organizations, as we are in terms of producing our own shows at the Opera House,” said Haile.

       

      “We are proud of not only the people we attract from all across the country, but we also want to make sure that people who live here are aware that this is a major entertainment source for us throughout the summer,” Haile added.

       

      As part of its Summerfest 2016 the company scheduled four public performances outside the opera house. There were recitals last weekend at the Lebanon United Methodist Church and the Fells Historic Estate and Gardens in Newbury, N.H.

       

      This weekend, the company will celebrate in song the National Park Service’s centenary on Saturday, at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock. On Thursday, July 21, there will be a jazz concert at the Enfield Shaker Museum.

       

      And on Monday, Aug. 8, Peter Fox Smith, host on Vermont Public Radio of the show Saturday Afternoon at the Opera will give a talk at 6:30 at the Woodstock Historical Society.

       

      Something for everyone, in other words.

       

      “Whether you love George Gershwin or whether you love Puccini, Opera North is here as a professional company to fulfill the potential of what we can bring to the area,” Haile said.

       

      For complete schedules and ticket information on the 2016 Opera North Season go to the ON website, operanorth.org. To order tickets go to the Lebanon Opera House website at lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

       

      Box office hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.

       

      Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.

    • July 13, 2016 – DailyUV.com – PURPLE COWS IN STRANGE PLACES

      Wednesday, July 13, 2016 

      ArtfulEdge  : Susan B. Apel

      Link to article with photos

       

      PURPLE COWS IN STRANGE PLACES

       

      I outed myself.  Right there in a class about opera no less, I raised my hand when Evans Haile, General Director of Opera North, asked if there was anyone who didn't like opera. I said yes. Sometimes. He assured me it was okay. He sees himself in the role of missionary to those like me, one of opera's semi-distant acquaintances. I, by extension, hope not necessarily to convert you but at least to pique your interest in an art form that many think too highbrow and inaccessible. "It ain't necessarily so," wrote George Gershwin, who famously composed many things--including the American opera Porgy and Bess.

       

      Opera North's 35th season is upon us, as it rehearses its three mainstage shows for Summerfest 2016: Puccini's Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, and Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment. All of them will take place in late July to mid-August at the Lebanon Opera House. They are full-fledged productions with world-class directors and designers, including Tony Award winner (The Color Purple) David L. Arsenault, whose work closer to home is familiar to Northern Stage audiences. There will be VIP tents in Colburn Park, the better to mingle. The performers? 17 resident artists chosen by Artistic Director Louis Burkot, after auditioning close to 800 singers. Yes, 800. Plus 8 principal artists, 8 dancers, 24 adult and 11 children's chorus members, 26 musicians, a creative team of 7, and plenty of production people.  More commentary to come after the opening nights of the major productions.

       

      For now I am interested in this missionary zeal to take the sting out of the concept of "opera." One way to do that is to move opera away from the opera house and into unexpected places in people's communities. Opera North has an extensive outreach program that does just that. It sponsored, and manned a booth at, the 2016 Quechee Balloon Festival. This year's Concert Series began in a Lebanon church with an Artists' Showcase to introduce the season's resident artists. Smaller evening performances have been scheduled in landmark venues across the Upper Valley. Despite last weekend's rain, people packed the veranda at The Fells for a night of music and readings of its former residents' love letters. Concert season is not over. Remaining events include:

       

      --July 16: A Celebration in Song at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion in Woodstock VT. American music like Copland and Gershwin. Picnics encouraged. Free.

       

      --July 21: Jazz Night at the Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield NH. The Great American Songbook. Dinner. Tours. A celebration of jazz and musician Fred Haas's birthday.

       

      --August 8: An Evening with Peter Fox Smith and Friends at the Woodstock Historical Society in Woodstock VT. VPR listeners know Smith's show, Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.

       

      Kids and opera? Opera North has it covered. In 2015, and other past years, bus loads of Upper Valley children attended a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Opera House, free of charge with scholarships available for transportation. In addition, 2016 features the English-language, one act opera The Telephone, with two Opera North singers and a pianist on the road performing at 9 schools from Rutland VT to Newport NH. An estimated 3,000 children see something of Opera North each year.

       

      And the class in which I dared to raise my hand? It's a joint venture with OSHER at Dartmouth, designed to give a behind-the-scenes peek at how Opera North puts together its season. All 25 seats have long been filled with opera enthusiasts and the opera-curious, like me. The first class included Haile's dynamic 30 minute lecture on a thousand years of opera history and a truly captivating performance by Lindsay Ohse and Andrew Surrena from Daughter of the Regiment. Their voices bounced off the walls of the classroom and hallways of the Black Senior Center in Hanover.

       

      Are you less intimidated yet? Could it be the word "opera?" Haile joked that the term may be off-putting and suggested that "maybe we should call what we do 'purple cows.'" I'm feeling better by the minute. See you at the opera? I look forward to it.

  • 2016 PRESS RELEASES

    • December 08, 2016 – OPERA NORTH’S 35TH SEASON

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      December 8, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH’S 35TH SEASON – SUMMERFEST 2017 – WILL INCLUDE PUCCINI’S MADAMA BUTTERFLY, OFFENBACH’S LA BELLE HÉLÈNE, AND COLE PORTER’S KISS ME KATE

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce its 35th season, Summerfest 2017, running from July 8th to August 13th in Lebanon, New Hampshire and other historic locations in New Hampshire and Vermont. The music festival features three mainstage productions at the Lebanon Opera House, as well as concerts and special events around the region.

       

      Summerfest 2017 will include mainstage productions of:

      • Puccini’s epic romance Madama Butterfly
      • Cole Porter’s raucous romp Kiss Me, Kate
      • Offenbach’s rollicking La belle Hélène

       

      Tickets for mainstage productions start at $20, with the best seats going for $90. Subscriptions are available for regularly-priced tickets from $40 – $90, providing a 15% savings until January 2, 2017.

       

      Summerfest 2017 will also include VIP tents on Lebanon Green (Colburn Park), across the street from Lebanon Opera House, on opening nights of all three mainstage productions. Patrons can enjoy wine and appetizers, while mingling with directors and designers before the show and during intermission. Dates for the VIP tents are:

      • Saturday, July 29 @ 6:30 pm – Kiss Me, Kate
      • Tuesday, August 1 @ 6:30 pm – La belle Hélène
      • Friday, August 4 @ 6:30 pm – Madama Butterfly

       

      In addition to the mainstage shows, a concert series will take place at landmark locations around the Upper Valley. More information will be available once dates are confirmed.

       

      World-class principals, Broadway directors, and award-winning designers join the company in mid-July and Opera North’s core company of eighteen resident artists, selected from almost 700 applicants at auditions held around the country, arrive in early July to prepare for their roles. The entire company consists of over 100 singers, musicians, and creative and technical staff, who come from as nearby as the Upper Valley and as far away as California and Germany.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • November 17, 2016 – OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES CAST FOR “AMAHL & THE NIGHT VISITORS”

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      November 17, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES CAST FOR “AMAHL & THE NIGHT VISITORS” PERFORMING AT LEBANON OPERA HOUSE AND CAPITAL CENTER FOR THE ARTS

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the cast for its production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s beloved children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. The cast will feature Miriam Viazmenski (Amahl), Erma Mellinger (Amahl’s mother), Trevor Neal (King Melchior), Martin Clark (King Kaspar), Javier Ortiz (King Balthasar), and Raphie Orleck-Jetter (Page). There will be one performance at Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday, December 13th at 11 am, and two performances at Lebanon Opera House on Friday, December 16th at 7 pm and Saturday, December 17th at 5 pm. A free school performance at Lebanon Opera House on Friday, December 16th has already “sold out.”

       

      Thirteen-year-old Miriam Viazmenski, from Hanover, New Hampshire, was in the Children’s Chorus of Opera North’s Tosca this past summer and has also appeared in productions of Noye's Fludde, La Bohème, and The King and I. She previously played Amahl in last year’s outreach performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Local favorite Erma Mellinger, a mezzo-soprano from West Lebanon, New Hampshire, also returns in the role of Amahl’s mother. Dr. Mellinger has been a faculty member of Dartmouth College since 1996 and has been a principal artist with many major opera companies.

       

      Baritone Trevor Neal, from Dallas, Texas, performed in all three of Opera North’s 2016 mainstage productions: Tosca (Sciarrone), Daughter of the Regiment (Corporal), and Evita (Ensemble).He played King Melchior in last year’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. Javier Ortiz, a baritone originally from New Mexico, also reprises his role as King Balthasar. He played Hortensius in Opera North’s Daughter of the Regiment. Martin Clark, a graduate student at the University of North Texas who played Tonio in this summer’s Daughter of the Regiment, will perform as King Kaspar for the first time. Raphie Orleck-Jetter returns in the role of Page. He was in the Chorus for Daughter of the Regiment.

       

      One of the most popular holiday classics of all time, Amahl and the Night Visitors tells the story of a miraculous encounter between Amahl, a boy with a lame leg, and the Three Kings. The one-act, 45-minute opera, which was first produced for television by NBC in 1951. The moving tale is a timeless and inspiring message of how faith, charity, unselfish love, and good deeds can work miracles. This family-friendly opera is sung in English and performed with professional soloists and a chamber orchestra.

       

      Tickets for the performance at Capital Center for the Arts are $7. each and can be purchased through their website at ccanh.com/events/amahl-and-night-visitors. Tickets to the public performances at Lebanon Opera House are $22.50 for adults, $10.00 for children aged 10-17 and free for children under the age of 10 (accompanying an adult). They may be purchased online at www.operanorth.org or through the LOH Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      Amahl and the Night Visitors is presented at the Capital Center for the Arts as part of their School Series and at Lebanon Opera House as part of their Youth Education Series (YES). Opera North is proud to have support for Amahl and the Night Visitors from underwriters Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, The Byrne Foundation, and The Couch Family Foundation.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company in the region. Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 13, 2016 and will feature three mainstage productions at Lebanon Opera House as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. Each summer, a select number of distinguished young professionals are chosen to participate in Opera North's Resident Artist Program in which they work with world-class directors, designers, and conductors to perform and cover appropriate roles in the mainstage productions. Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theatre. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • October 19, 2016 – OPERA NORTH PRESENTS “AMAHL & THE NIGHT VISITORS”

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      October 19, 2016

      OPERA NORTH PRESENTS “AMAHL & THE NIGHT VISITORS” THIS DECEMBER AT LEBANON OPERA HOUSE AND CAPITAL CENTER FOR THE ARTS

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is thrilled to announce it will present four performances of Gian Carlo Menotti’s beloved children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors this December. There will be two free or reduced-price school performances – on Tuesday, December 13th at 10 am at Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, NH and on Friday, December 16th at 10 am at Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, NH. Two public performance will take place at Lebanon Opera House on Friday, December 16th at 7 pm and Saturday, December 17th at 5 pm.

       

      This will be third year in a row that Opera North has produced the family-friendly opera. One of the most popular holiday classics of all time, Amahl and the Night Visitors tells the story of a miraculous encounter between Amahl, a boy with a lame leg, and the Three Kings. The moving tale is a timeless and inspiring message of how faith, charity, unselfish love, and good deeds can work miracles. This family-friendly holiday classic is a one-act, 45-minute opera, sung in English, and performed with a chamber orchestra and professional soloists.

       

      This year, local favorite mezzo-soprano Erma Mellinger returns in the role of Amahl’s mother. Dr. Mellinger has been a faculty member of Dartmouth College since 1996 and has been a principal artist with many major opera companies. The Three Kings will be played by baritone Trevor Neal, tenor Martin Clark, and baritone Javier Ortiz. Mr. Neal and Mr. Ortiz are returning from last year’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Mr. Neal, Mr. Clark and Mr. Ortiz also had roles in mainstage productions of Opera North’s Summerfest 2016.

       

      Tickets for the performance at Capital Center for the Arts are $7. each and can be purchased through their website at ccanh.com/events/amahl-and-night-visitors. The school performance at Lebanon Opera House is free to home-schooled students and those at area public and private schools. Tickets must be reserved in advance through the LOH Box Office at (603) 448-0400. Tickets to the public performances at Lebanon Opera House are $22.50 for adults, $10.00 for children aged 10-17 and free for children under the age of 10 (accompanying an adult). They may be purchased online at www.operanorth.org or through the LOH Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      Amahl and the Night Visitors is presented at the Capital Center for the Arts as part of their School Series and at Lebanon Opera House as part of their Youth Education Series (YES). Opera North is proud to have support for Amahl and the Night Visitors from underwriters Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, The Byrne Foundation, and The Couch Family Foundation.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company in the region. Summerfest 2017 – Opera North’s 35th season – runs July 8 to August 12, 2016 and will feature three mainstage productions at Lebanon Opera House as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. Each summer, a select number of distinguished young professionals are chosen to participate in Opera North's Resident Artist Program in which they work with world-class directors, designers, and conductors to perform and cover appropriate roles in the mainstage productions. Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theatre. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • July 07, 2016 – Summerfest 2016 Opening Night

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      July 27, 2016

       

      OPENING NIGHT OF OPERA NORTH’S 2016 MAINSTAGE SHOWS

      IS THIS FRIDAY, JULY 29 AT LEBANON OPERA HOUSE

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is thrilled to have an amazing group of singers and creative team members ready for opening night of Opera North’s Summerfest 2006 this Friday, July 29th at Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita will open the season with a cast of Broadway and international stars. Winner of multiple Tony and Olivier awards and one of the most popular musicals in the world, Evita is the story of power, politics and Eva Peron, who rose from B-movie actress to the president’s office of Argentina. Jenny Ashman will play Eva Peron, Mark Womack will play Juan Peron, and Brandon Rubendall will play Che Guevara. The production is directed by Evan Pappas, choreographed by Kurt Domoney, and conducted by Opera North Artistic Director Louis Burkot, with sets designed by Paul Tate dePoo III.

       

      On Sunday, July 31st, Donizetti’s most joyous comedy, Daughter of the Regiment, opens with a double cast that includes Lindsay Ohse and Martha Eason as Marie, Andrew Surrena and Martin Clark as Tonio, and Heather Gallagher and Natalie Rose Havens as the Marquise of Berkenfield. Tony Award-winner Maureen Brennan stars as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, with Alex Soare as Sergeant Suplice. Scenic Designer David Arsenault returns to Opera North after designing last year’s The Tender Land and Abduction from the Seraglio.

       

      On Friday, August 5th, Puccini’s Tosca opens. The most lethal of operas will feature Sandra Lopez in the title role, with Aleksey Bogdanov as Scarpia and Jeffrey Gwaltney as Cavaradossi. Filippo Ciabatti, the newly-named conductor of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, will conduct and Russell Treyz will direct. This love triangle, involving a volatile diva, a sadistic police chief, and an idealistic artist, will have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats.

       

      Once again, VIP Tents on Lebanon Green (Colburn Park) will be available for opening nights. Patrons can mingle with the creative team while enjoying wine and appetizers in the VIP Tents. (Separate tickets are required.)

       

      About Summerfest 2016

      Summerfest 2016 runs from July 29th – August 13th with performances every day except for Mondays. There are matinees for all three productions, providing the ability to see three shows in two days. Tickets start at $15, with the best seats going for $88. Buy your tickets online at www.operanorth.org or call the box office at (603) 448-0400. All performances at Lebanon Opera House.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • July 06, 2016 – MBR Concert

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      July 6, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH AND MARSH-BILLINGS-ROCKEFELLER NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK PRESENT A FREE CONCERT CELEBRATING THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNTIAL

       

      LEBANON, NH & WOODSTOCK, VT – Opera North and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park are pleased to present American Summer: A Centennial Celebration of the National Park Service, a free concert on Saturday, July 16th starting at 6:00 pm. The concert will feature music inspired by the great natural spaces of our land and parks, sung by Opera North artists.

       

      The program of great American Music will feature the “Old American Songs” and “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land by Aaron Copland, Gershwin’s immortal “Rhapsody in Blue,” Richard Rodgers’ “The Carousel Waltz,” favorites from Jerome Kern’s Showboat, and more.

       

      Accompanied by two virtuoso pianists, General Director Evans Haile and Andrew Gerle, Opera North’s singers will bring music and nature together in joyous celebration of favorite musical selections, surrounded by the beautiful gardens of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion. Narration will tie together the history and importance of the National Park Service, and how the parks have inspired poets, painters, and composers in building America’s national identity. Concert goers are invited to picnic on the lawn, bring their families, and experience the fun of great music in an outdoor setting.

       

      "We are pleased to work with Opera North to share this musical celebration of the National Park Centennial with our visitors. Music has always been an important part of the traditions of the Billings and Rockefeller families on the estate. We look forward to celebrating the Centennial by bringing wonderful songs and talented musicians to the stunning landscape of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion," said Rick Kendall, Superintendent of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP.

       

      “Opera North is honored and delighted to partner with the National Park service in this unique "once-in-a-hundred-year" celebration of our country's greatest assets, its National Parks. The Art’s greatest creative muse is the land and nature. We are proud to create a program as part of Summerfest 2016 which brings nature and the arts together in such a beautiful setting,” said Evans Haile, General Director of Opera North.

       

      Parking for the event is available at the Billings Farm & Museum across from the National Park. A complimentary shuttle from the parking lot to the mansion, provided by the Woodstock Inn and Resort, will start at 5:00 pm.

       

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Each summer, Opera North stages three mainstage productions and hosts a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. Summerfest 2016 – Opera North’s 34th season – runs July 9 to August 13 and features Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. Opera North’s Resident Artist program provides young professional artists with experience and education to further their careers and, through its Education & Outreach Program, Opera North takes free performances of music theatre to over 1500 local elementary, middle, and high school students. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park was created by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President George Bush on August 26, 1992. It is the only national park to tell the story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America. The Park is named for three individuals and their families who played important roles in American conservation history: George Perkins Marsh (1801 – 1882), Frederick Billings (1823 – 1890) and Laurance S. Rockefeller (1910 – 2004). The lives and contributions of these three families reflect the evolution of the conservation movement in the United States. The site was the boyhood home of G. P. Marsh, one of America’s first conservationists, whose 1864 book, Man and Nature, decried the effects of deforestation and provided the intellectual underpinnings of the early conservation movement. Later, it was the home of Billings, who returned to his native Vermont from California, transformed the property into a progressive farm and country estate, and reforested much of the land around the Mansion. Its most recent owners, Billings’ granddaughter Mary Rockefeller and her husband Laurance Rockefeller, gave the property and its collections to the American people.

       

      2016 marks the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service

      The National Park Service was established in 1916 to preserve and protect the natural and cultural heritage of the United States for the education and enjoyment of future generations. As the NPS celebrates 100 years of existence, it looks towards its next century with a goal to "Connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates."

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • July 06, 2016 – Resident artists arrive

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      July 6, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH WELCOMES SEVENTEEN RESIDENT ARTISTS
      TO THE UPPER VALLEY FOR THE 2016 SEASON

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to welcome its 2016 Resident Artists to the Upper Valley. Seventeen young professionals from around the US were chosen from almost 700 applicants to participate in Opera North's Resident Artist program. For the next two months, they will work with world-class directors, designers, and conductors as they prepare for roles in the season's productions.

       

      The Resident Artists will perform and cover appropriate roles in the mainstage productions of Opera North 2016 season – Tosca, Evita and Daughter of the Regiment. In addition, they will perform at several concerts to be held at landmark locations around the Upper Valley, including Opera North’s Artist Showcase on Saturday, July 9th and A Concert on the Veranda: Celebrating the Romance of Alice and Clarence Hay at The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, New Hampshire) on Sunday, July 10th. A free concert, celebrating the National Parks Service’s Centennial, at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Woodstock, Vermont) on Saturday, July 16th will also feature Resident Artists.

       

      This year’s Resident Artists have worked with some of the best opera companies in America, including Ash Lawn Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Des Moines Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Nashville Opera, Portland Opera, Sarasota Opera, Virginia Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera.

       

      Opera North's Resident Artist Program is distinguished from other apprentice programs in the variety and quality of the opportunities provided. The program focuses on education through performance. For six weeks, Resident Artists are placed in an environment that is nurturing and beneficial. They are treated as professionals and provided with compensation and a comfortable place to live, freeing them to concentrate on their personal musical and professional advancement.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Summerfest 2016 – Opera North’s 34th season – runs July 9 to August 13 and features three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment – at Lebanon Opera House as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • June 29, 2016 – Evita cast

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      June 29, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES PRINCIPAL CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM FOR EVITA

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the principal cast and creative team for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, one of its three Summerfest 2016 mainstage productions, to be held July 29 – August 13 at the Lebanon Opera House. The tempestuous musical about the rise of Argentina's provocative and controversial first lady Eva Peron will be given a dynamic new production.

       

      Che Guevara will be played by Brandon Rubendall, seen on Broadway in Spiderman, Disaster, Anything Goes and in the national and international tours of Saturday Night Fever, Wicked and Hairspray.

       

      Eva Peron will be played by Jenny Ashman, recently in Sleep No More NYC, The Little Mermaid in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, the world premiere of Romance Language at the Seven Angels Theatre and on television in A God Named Pablo.

       

      Juan Peron will be played by Mark Womack of Baz Luhrmann's award-winning Broadway production of La Bohème, and star of many major American Opera companies including Sarasota, Knoxville, Chautauqua, and the Boston Lyric Opera, to name a few.

       

      The production will be directed by Evan Pappas (Off-Broadway Liberty, Broadway My Favorite Year, Parade), choreographed by Kurt Domoney (Broadway A Chorus Line) and conducted by Opera North Artistic Director Louis Burkot.

       

      Set designs will be by Paul Tate dePoo (Guys and Dolls at Goodspeed, Young Frankenstein at St. Louis MUNY, Showboat at Boston's Fiddlehead Theatre), and lighting design by John Bartenstein (Les Misérables, Steel Magnolias and Miss Saigon at North Carolina Theatre).

       

      About Summerfest 2016

      Opera North’s 34th season runs July 9 to August 13 and features three mainstage productions of Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment, at Lebanon Opera House. A series of concerts at landmark locations around the Upper Valley includes a collaboration with Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Woodstock, VT) to celebrate the National Parks Service’s Centennial, Jazz Night with Fred Haas at Enfield Shaker Museum (Enfield, NH), An Evening with Peter Fox Smith at Woodstock Historical Society (Woodstock, VT), and A Concert on the Veranda at The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, NH). Tickets, priced from $15 – $88, can be purchased online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Each summer, Opera North stages three mainstage productions at the Lebanon Opera House and hosts a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. Opera North’s Resident Artist program provides young professional artists with experience and education to further their careers and, through its Education & Outreach Program, Opera North takes free performances of music theatre to local elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as public libraries around the area. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • June 22, 2016 – Daughter cast

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      June 22, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES KEY CAST MEMBERS AND CREATIVE TEAM

      FOR DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the principal roles for Daughter of the Regiment, one of its three 2016 mainstage productions. The role of Marie will be shared by Martha Eason and Lindsay Ohse; the role of Tonio will be shared by Martin Clark and Andrew Surrena; the role of The Marquise of Birkenfeld will be shared by Natalie Rose Havens and Heather Gallagher; and Alex Soare will play Sergeant Sulpice. In addition, Maureen Brennan will appear as the Duchess of Krakenthorp.

       

      In addition, key members of the creative team for Daughter of the Regiment have also been selected. The production will directed by Evan Pappas and conducted by Opera North Artistic Director Louis Burkot. The Scenic Designer will be David Arsenault and John Bartenstein returns as Lighting Designer.

       

      Summerfest 2016 – Opera North’s 34th season – runs July 9 to August 13 and features three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment – at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets start at $15, with the best seats going for $88. Tickets can be purchased online at www.operanorth.org or through the Box Office at (603) 448-0400.

       

      In addition to the mainstage shows, there will be a concert series at landmark locations around the Upper Valley, including A Celebration of the National Parks Service’s Centennial at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Woodstock, VT), Jazz Night with Fred Haas at Enfield Shaker Museum (Enfield, NH), An Evening with Peter Fox Smith at Woodstock Historical Society (Woodstock, VT), and A Concert on the Veranda Celebrating the Romance of Alice and Clarence Hay at The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, NH).

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Each summer, Opera North stages three mainstage productions at the Lebanon Opera House and hosts a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. Opera North’s Resident Artist program provides young professional artists with experience and education to further their careers and, through its Education & Outreach Program, Opera North takes free performances of music theatre to local elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as public libraries around the area. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • May 11, 2016 – Tosca Cast

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      May 11, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES KEY CAST MEMBERS
      AND CREATIVE TEAM FOR TOSCA

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the principal roles for Tosca, one of its three 2016 mainstage productions. Soprano Sandra Lopez will play the title role of Tosca, while tenor Jeffrey Gwaltney and baritone Aleksey Bogdanov will play Cavaradossi and Scarpia, respectively. All three are Opera North alumni and have extensive international experience.

       

      Ms. Lopez has performed recently as Elisabetta in Don Carlo with Finnish National Opera, in the title role of Tosca with Opera de Oviedo and Opera på Skäret in Sweden, and as Mimi in La Boheme with Florida Grand Opera and Fort Worth Opera.

       

      Mr. Gwaltney made his London debut at the Royal Albert Hall as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and at Opera Holland Park as Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West and as Luigi in Il Tabarro. He also appeared as Erik (George) in The Flying Dutchman at the Scottish Opera and as the Prince in Rusalka for Opera Ireland.

       

      Mr. Bogdanov has appeared with Washington National Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, Peter in Hansel and Gretel, and Governor George Wallace in Appomattox, in the 2015-2016 season. Other recent highlights include Eugene Onegin with Edmonton Opera, Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall, and a return to The Glimmerglass Festival for Madama Butterfly.

       

      In addition, the key members of the creative team for Tosca have been selected. The production will directed by Russell Treyz and conducted by Filippo Ciabatti. The Scenic Designer will be Paul Tate dePoo III and John Bartenstein returns as Lighting Designer.

       

      Mr. Treyz began his opera career in the chorus of the Chautauqua Opera Company. Since then, he has worked extensively in theater as director and playwright. His directing credits include: American Place, La Mama ETC, The Pearl, and Playwright’s Horizons in New York City as well as The Cape Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Goodspeed Opera Company, North Shore Music Theater, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and numerous Shakespeare Festivals. As both director and playwright, he collaborated with the late Harry Chapin on the musical Cotton Patch Gospel. Last season, he directed Abduction from the Seraglio for Opera North.

       

      Mr. Ciabatti is currently guest conductor of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. In 2016, he made his debut for the Lyric Theatre at Illinois, conducting Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2015, he made his South American debut conducting the Universidad Central Symphony Orchestra in Bogota, Colombia, where he also taught masterclasses in orchestra and Italian opera. Ciabatti has been a pianist and coach at the Cherubini Conservatory, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Florence Opera Academy in Italy, and has played for masterclasses of Renée Fleming, Nathan Gunn, William Matteuzzi, Donald George, and Isabel Leonard.

       

      Mr. dePoo is a production designer for opera, musicals, plays, and concerts. Most recently, he created the sets for Guys and Dolls (Goodspeed Opera House), The Wiz and Les Misérables (Maltz Jupiter Theatre) The Rocky Horror Show (Yale University Theatre), One Man, Two Guvnors (Pioneer Theatre Company), Other Desert Cities (Capital Repertory Theatre), Alcina and Orlando (WhiteBox NYC), and Hello, Dolly! (Cape Playhouse). In 2015, he was named Live Design magazine’s “Young Designer to Watch.”

       

      Mr. Bartenstein’s design experience includes Les Miserables with Lauren Kennedy, Oliver! and Miss Saigon with Kevin Gray, Steel Magnolias with Tony Award-winner Beth Leavel, Cabaret with Deborah Gibson, The King and I with Golden Globe-winner and Tony-nominated Lou Diamond Phillips, Fiddler on the Roof with Tony-nominated Paul Sorvino, Driving Miss Daisy with Sandy Duncan, The Full Monty with Emmy-winner Sally Struthers, Jekyll and Hyde with Sebastian Bach, Sweeny Todd with Tony Award-winner Norm Lewis, Cats with Larry Gatlin, Man of La Mancha with Ira David Wood, and Jesus Christ Superstar with Ray Walker.

       

      Summerfest 2016 will be Opera North’s 34th season. It will feature a total of 15 performances of three mainstage productions – Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment – at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets start at $15, with the best seats going for $88.

       

      In addition to the mainstage shows, there will be a concert series at landmark locations around the Upper Valley, including A Celebration of the National Parks Service’s Centennial at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Woodstock, VT), Jazz Night at Enfield Shaker Museum (Enfield, NH), An Evening with Peter Fox Smith at Woodstock Historical Society (Woodstock, VT), and A Concert on the Veranda Celebrating the Romance of Alice and Clarence Hay at The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens (Newbury, NH).

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Each summer, Opera North stages three operas at the Lebanon Opera House and hosts a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the area. The 2016 “Summerfest” runs from July 9 to August 13, and will feature productions of Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

    • April 12, 2016 – Summerfest

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      April 12, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH’S 2016 SUMMERFEST WILL FEATURE THREE MAINSTAGE PRODUCTIONS AND A CONCERT SERIES AT LANDMARK LOCATIONS IN
      VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce the full line up for Summerfest 2016 – an exciting music festival of concerts, special events, and mainstage performances – which will run from July 9th to August 13th in Lebanon, New Hampshire and other locations in the Upper Valley.

       

      This will be Opera North’s 34th season and will feature a total of 15 performances of three mainstage productions. The mainstage shows, presented at Lebanon Opera House, are:

      • Puccini’s Tosca
      • Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita
      • Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment

       

      Tickets for the mainstage productions start at $15, with the best seats going for $88. Subscriptions are available, which provide a savings of 10% on regularly-priced tickets from $35 – $88. This year, there will be matinees for all three productions, providing the ability to see three shows in two days.

       

      Opera North will once again have a VIP tent in Colburn Park (Lebanon Green), where patrons can mingle with directors and designers before the show and during intermission. Cocktails and show-inspired food will be served. Dates include opening nights for all three mainstage productions as well as both nights of the season’s closing weekend:

      • Friday, July 29 @ 6:30 pm – Evita
      • Sunday, July 31 @ 4:00 pm – Daughter of the Regiment
      • Friday August 5 @ 6:30 pm – Tosca
      • Friday, August 12 @ 6:30 pm – Tosca
      • Saturday, August 13 @ 6:30 pm – Evita

       

      In addition to the mainstage shows, a series of concerts and special events will take place at landmark locations around the Upper Valley, including:

      • Saturday, July 9 @ 6 pm – Young Artist Showcase
      • Sunday, July 10 @ 5 pm – Concert on the Veranda: A Cottage for Two, Celebrating the Romance of Alice and Clarence Hay, The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens
      • Saturday, July 16 @ 6 pm – A Celebration in Song Saluting the National Park Service’s Centennial, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion
      • Thursday, July 21 @ 5 pm – A Night of Jazz with dinner and tours, Enfield Shaker Museum
      • Monday, August 8 @ 6:30 pm – An Evening with Peter Fox-Smith and Friends

       

      In early July, Opera North’s core company of eighteen artists, selected from almost 700 applicants at auditions held around the country, will arrive in the Upper Valley. This is in addition to world-class and award-winning principals, directors and designers who join the company in mid-July. For the 2016 season, the entire company will consist of over 100 singers, musicians, and creative and technical staff, who come from as nearby as the Upper Valley and as far away as California and Germany.

       

      Confirmed cast and creative teams include:

      • Soprano Sandra Lopez (Finnish National Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Fort Worth Opera)
      • Baritone Jeff Gwaltney (Royal Albert Hall, Scottish Opera and Opera Ireland)
      • Baritone Aleksey Bogdanov (Washington National Opera, Edmonton Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival)
      • Director Evan Pappas (B’way: Parade, My Favorite Year, A Chorus Line)
      • Director Russell Treyz (Goodspeed Opera, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre)
      • Designer David Arsenault (B’way: Associate Designer The Color Purple, King Charles III)
      • Designer Paul de Poo III (St. Louis Muni, The Bard Festival, New York’s Classic Stage Company)

       

      Complete casting will be announced soon.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

       

      OPERA NORTH SUMMERFEST 2016

      JULY 9 – AUGUST 13, 2016

      ARTIST BIOS

       

      Sandra Lopez, Soprano

      Ms. Lopez has performed recently as Elisabetta in Don Carlos with Finnish National Opera, in the title role of Tosca with Opera de Oviedo and Opera på Skäret in Sweden, and as Mimi in La Boheme with Florida Grand Opera and Fort Worth Opera.

       

       

       

       

       

      Jeff Gwaltney, Baritone

      Mr. Gwaltney made his London debut at the Royal Albert Hall as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and at Opera Holland Park as Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West and as Luigi in Il Tabarro. He also appeared as Erik (George) in The Flying Dutchman at the Scottish Opera and as the Prince in Rusalka for Opera Ireland.

       

       

       

       

      Aleksey Bogdanov, Baritone

      Mr. Bogdanov has appeared with Washington National Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, Peter in Hansel and Gretel, and Governor George Wallace in Appomattox, in the 2015-2016 season. Other recent highlights include Eugene Onegin with Edmonton Opera, Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall, and a return to The Glimmerglass Festival for Madama Butterfly.

       

       

       

       

      Evan Pappas, Director

      Mr. Pappas directed the Off-Broadway production of Liberty at Theatre 80; 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, which won the SF Bay Area Critics Best Production Award and was also nominated for Best Director; and Funny Girl, where he also received a SF Bay Area Critics Director nomination. As an actor, he starred on Broadway as Britt Craig in Parade, Benjy in My Favorite Year, and Paul in A Chorus Line.

       

       

    • March 25, 2016 – Education and Outreach Tour

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      March 25, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH’S SPRING EDUCATION & OUTREACH TOUR
      HEADING TO HIGH SCHOOLS IN VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is about to embark on its latest Education & Outreach Tour. From March 29th to April 1st, the 2016 Spring Tour will head to nine high schools from Rutland, Vermont to Newport, New Hampshire, as well as the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, to perform Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone.

       

      The Telephone is a one-act comic opera that premiered in 1947. Although it was written almost 70 years ago, its underlying theme is still relevant today: a couple is having difficulty communicating mostly because a telephone keeps getting in the way – not hard to image in today’s smart-phone obsessed culture.

       

      In addition to performing the 20-minute opera, professional opera singers Amber Dewey and Trevor Martin will discuss the piece with students. Pianist Henry Danaher will accompany the singers.

       

      About Opera North’s Education & Outreach Program

      Opera North’s Education & Outreach program introduces opera to under-served regions of the New Hampshire and Vermont Upper Valley, where funding cuts have severely impacted music and arts education. Through live performances and informative discussions, thousands of local elementary, middle, and high school students have the opportunity to experience opera and musical theatre each year. In the spring and fall, the E&O Tour takes relevant, age-appropriate opera to area schools and libraries. Opera North’s Resident Artists perform short operas or selections from musical theatre and are available to interact with students during discussions. The Tour goes to about ten schools in each tour and there is no cost for schools to participate. Any school interested in taking part should email info@operanorth.org.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. Summerfest 2016 runs from July 9 to August 13 and will feature productions of Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

    • March 16, 2016 – Spring Fling Concert

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      March 16, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH CELEBRATES SPRING WITH SONG
      AT ITS SPRING FLING SOIRÉE ON APRIL 1ST

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is kicking off its 34th season with a special musical evening on Friday, April 1, 2016. The Spring Fling Soirée will feature Opera North artists performing a medley from the Broadway duo Rodgers and Hart, excerpts from Menotti's The Telephone, and selections from the 2016 season shows: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, Puccini’s Tosca, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment.

       

      The event will take place at the Quechee Club in Quechee, Vermont and will feature performances by soprano Amber Dewey, mezzo-soprano Heather Gallagher and baritone Trevor Martin. Opera North General Director Evans Haile and Henry Danaher will accompany the singers with Musical Direction by Artistic Director Louis Burkot.

       

      In addition to the musical entertainment, more details will be available about Summerfest 2016 – Opera North’s exciting music festival of concerts, special events, and mainstage performances that runs from July 9 to August 13 at Lebanon Opera House and landmark locations around the Upper Valley.

       

      Tickets to the Spring Fling Soirée are $35, which includes light appetizers. They may be purchased online at www.operanorth.org/special-events.html or by phone at (603) 448-4141. Doors open at 6 pm. The Quechee Club is located at 3268 Quechee Main Street, Quechee, Vermont 05059.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the premier professional summer music festival of the Upper Valley. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, it is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Each summer, Opera North produces three mainstage productions of operas and classic musical theatre, performed in repertory at Lebanon Opera House, as well as a series of concerts and special events at landmark locations in the Upper Valley. Summerfest 2016 runs from July 9 to August 13 and will feature productions of Puccini’s Tosca, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

       

      ARTIST BIOS

       

      Amber Dewey, Soprano

      Amber Dewey is a native of Amarillo, Texas and a 2012 graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in German and a minor in music. Credits include Cunegonde (Candide) as a guest artist at Dartmouth College, Ilona Ritter (She Loves Me), Billie Smith (Babes in Arms), Adele (Die Fledermaus), and Nanette (No, No, Nanette) with the College Light Opera Company, Crissy (Hair) and Enid Hoopes (Legally Blonde) with the New London Barn Playhouse, and Pink Sheep 1/Cunegonde cover (Candide) with Amarillo Opera. Most recently, Amber performed with Blue Gate Musicals as Sara (Josiah for President) and Star (Half-Stitched), and originated the role of Harper (Our Christmas Dinner), for which she is also on the original cast recording.

       

       

      Heather Gallagher, Mezzo-soprano

      Heather Gallagher will be joining Opera North as a Resident Artist this summer. She is presently an Emerging Artist with Boston Lyric Opera, where she will be appearing in Werther (Katchen, Charlotte understudy) and The Merry Widow (Sylviane/Dodo). Recent credits include the title role in Carmen, Les lettres de Werther (Charlotte), Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah), The Love Potion (Isolt's Mother), Katya Kabanova (Feklusha) and the Boston premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's opera, Sumeida's Song (Asakir). Awards include Boston Lyric Opera's 2015 Shrestinian Award for Excellence, 1st place in the 2015 Peter Elvins Competition, 1st place 2015 Metrowest Competition and an Encouragement Award from The Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation (2012).

       

       

      Trevor Martin, Baritone

      Trevor Martin made his role debut as Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Madison Opera in 2015. He revisits the role when he joins the Fort Worth Opera Studio for their 2015/16 season. Also, at Fort Worth Opera, he will be covering the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, as well as the roles of Victor in Jeff Myers' Buried Alive and the Producer in Patrick Soluri's Embedded. Trevor spent the summer of 2015 with Des Moines Metro Opera as an Apprentice Artist covering Jake Wallace, Bello and Happy in their production of La fanciulla del West, and in 2014/15, participated as an Emerging Artist at Virginia Opera, where he covered the role of Baron Douphol in La traviata.

       

    • January 5, 2016 – new staff / board

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

      January 6, 2016

       

      OPERA NORTH WELCOMES LISA MORRISON AS MARKETING MANAGER AND
      WILLIAM KOPPENHEFFER AS A NEW BOARD MEMBER

       

      LEBANON, NH – Opera North is pleased to announce that Lisa Morrison has joined the organization as their new Marketing Manager, with responsibility for all marketing, communications and social media activities. In addition, William Koppenheffer recently joined Opera North’s Board of Trustees.

       

      A recent arrival to the Upper Valley, Ms. Morrison, of Reading, VT, comes to Opera North with a wealth of non-profit and marketing experience. For the last 10 years, she ran a marketing consulting business focused on developing business and marketing strategies, working primarily with sport-related non-profits and small businesses, including several national sport organizations (U.S. Eventing Association and Equine Canada). Previously, she worked as Marketing Manager for three of Canada’s largest software companies (Fulcrum Technologies, now OpenText; JetForm, now Adobe Systems; and Cognos, now IBM). Ms. Morrison has a BA in Marketing from Stephens College (Columbia, MO) and an MBA from the University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON). In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors as a skier, hiker and snowshoer, and has recently returned to competitive riding, in the sport of eventing, with a young horse.

       

      Mr. Koppenheffer is long-time Upper Valley resident (Lebanon, NH) and Opera North supporter, who recently retired after 36 years of practicing law. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College (B.A. ’73) and Boston College (J.D. ’79). In addition to serving on Opera North’s 10-member Board of Trustees, he volunteers his time with Shaker Bridge Theatre, Lebanon Public Libraries Foundation, Lebanon Zoning Board of Adjustment and Lebanon Rotary Club, where he is currently Secretary. Mr. Koppenheffer also finds time to play golf and squash, travel with his wife, and walk Lucy the dog.

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is the only full-time professional opera company serving the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Founded in 1982 and based in Lebanon, NH, Opera North stages three operas each summer, which typically include a traditional opera, an American opera, and a classic musical theatre production. Opera North’s Resident Artist program provides up-and-coming opera performers with experience and education to further their careers. In addition, through its Education & Outreach Program, Opera North provides local elementary, middle, and high school students with educational programming through free performances of musical theater. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org or call (603) 448-4141.

       

      Contact: Lisa Morrison, Marketing Manager, Opera North

      marketing@operanorth.org | (603) 448-4141 | www.operanorth.org

  • 2015 ARTICLES

    • September 13 – Times argus – The Lowe Down: Can Vermont theaters maintain excellence?

      September 13, 2016

      Jim Lowe, The Times Argus

       

      The Lowe Down: Can Vermont theaters maintain excellence?

       

      Summer theater has become a big attraction in Vermont. But despite the ever-higher performance levels achieved each year, as with everywhere else, true excellence is truly unusual.

       

      Still, three Vermont productions proved consistently excellent this summer, two by Weston Playhouse and one by Opera North, and one company, Dorset Theatre Festival, maintained an unusually high level of excellence through most of its season. And a relative newcomer, Greensboro Arts Alliance’s Mirror Repertory Company, deserves a special mention.

       

      “Guys and Dolls,” the 1950 Frank Loesser Broadway musical, remains the most-performed musical. And yet the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company production stood out, not for any innovation or unusual approach, but simply for the consistency and excellence in its delivery of a bona fide masterpiece.

       

      Malcolm Ewen’s direction delivered the humor and the humanity of its story and characters, while crisp but sensitive musical direction by Larry Pressgrove and effervescent choreography by Michael Raine created a flavor that was irresistible. It was simply excellent musical theater.

       

      Also excellent musical theater was Opera North’s production of Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” at the Lebanon (N.H.) Opera House. While opera is not normally discussed in a theater column, Russell Treyz’s brilliant staging — again, no eccentricity, just imagination and excellence — made this among the very best theater this summer.

       

      Of course, opera doesn’t work without excellent singers and orchestra, and Opera North delivered, all conducted by Artistic Director Louis Burkot. Opera North’s production of this early Mozart masterpiece was not only beautiful, it was laugh-out-loud funny.

       

      Tackling a dramatic icon like Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” can be dangerous, with most productions becoming dreary and depressing. Weston Playhouse’s gorgeous production, however, inhabited the sorrows as well as the hopes of each of its four characters, realizing Williams’ faith in their irrepressible natures.

       

      With unusually sensitive direction by Kristen Coury, as well as an excellent cast, the Weston production delivered this most delicate storytelling — it sparkled like Laura’s glass unicorn.

       

      Few companies anywhere match the consistent excellence of Dorset, thanks to expert leadership by Dina Janis. Three of its four main stage productions were beautifully acted and directed. Only John Patrick Shanley’s “Outside Mullingar,” a tender gem of an oddball comedy, was misconceived as silly farce.

       

      Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” (directed by Giovanna Sardelli), about an early 20th-century black seamstress, was delivered in all its compelling drama and intimate beauty. Katie Forgette’s “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily” (directed by Margaret Perry) enjoyed its unique Oscar Wilde quirkiness. And the Paul Rudnick comedy “I Hate Hamlet” (directed by Carl Andress) was not only riotously funny, it was touching and memorable.

       

      Of course, Dorset’s consistently excellent casts and production qualities didn’t hurt.

       

      The surprise of the season, though, came out of Greensboro. Now in its third year there, the Mirror Repertory Company combined professional and community casts in a quite good production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” But it was in Tom Stoppard’s comedy, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” using the same principals — and “Hamlet” story — directed by Sonia Dunbar, that proved unexpectedly well performed, and funny.

       

      Greensboro Arts Alliance is building a $15 million Elizabethan theater, to be completed in 2017. Mirror Rep is a theater to watch.

       

      Again, we are fortunate that excellence is an ever-growing part of the Vermont theater scene.

       

      Jim Lowe is theater critic and arts editor of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald,
      and can be reached at jim.lowe@timesargus.com or jim.lowe@rutlandherald.com.

    • August 6, 2016 – The Westfield News.com

      Opera North is the only professional opera in Northern New England, and they’re in reisdence at Lebanon, NH’s Opera House until mid-August. Evans Haile is the new producer, and he’s importing world class talent to stage and perform Mozart’s The Abduction from The Seraglio, Copland’s The Tender Land, and Bernstein’s West Side Story. The latter’s being directed by Broadway star, Evan Pappas (A Chorus Line, My Favorite Year, Parade), who area audiences may remember seeing in Goodspeed’s Promises Promises and Hartford Stage’s Falsettos. For details: www.operanorth.org.

       

      Click on the images to see the article.

    • August 3, 2015 – Rutland Herald – Theater Review: West Side Story a timeless masterpiece

      August 3, 2015

      Jim Lowe, Rutland Herald

       

      Theater Review: West Side Story a timeless masterpiece

       

      LEBANON, N.H. - Why "West Side Story" is now often produced by opera rather than theater companies was made clear Saturday at the Lebanon Opera House at Opera North's powerful and beautiful production - it's about as operatic as any theater gets.

       

      First, there's the story. In this 1960s take on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" pitting Puerto Rican immigrant teens against the so-called American teens - longer-term immigrants - love emerges among the gang warfare. It doesn't get more melodramatic than this.

       

      Then there's Leonard Bernstein's brilliant score that not only reflects the time, it demands a fine symphony orchestra and makes operatic demands upon its singers. On top of that, the Jerome Robbins choreography mixes Broadway and ballet, demanding first-rate dancing.

       

      And Opera North did it up right.

       

      Louis Burkot, Opera North's artistic director, led the fine Opera North orchestra, delivering Bernstein's truly evocative score, with its hauntingly beautiful and timeless melodies, infectious and complex rhythms and spicy and exotic harmonic knowledge. The compelling score propelled the action throughout.

       

      At the heart, of course, were the two lovers. Operatically trained Candace Matthews sang with a lovely bell-like soprano that mixed innocence with passion as Maria. Tenor Victor Starsky, also an opera veteran, was more a down-to-earth than dashing Tony, but sang beautifully with Matthews. Their intimate singing together was as touching as it was beautiful.

       

      As Maria's friend Anita, Arianna Rosario, a regional theater veteran, proved not only a fine singer, she was the star dancer of the production. A fine troupe of young singers and dancers made up the Jets and the Sharks, complemented by fine actors in the few non-singing roles.

       

      But it was the totality of this enthralling production, directed by Evan Pappas and choreographed by Cathy Young, which proved compelling. Staging by Robert Fetterman-Ojha placed the orchestra behind a chain-link fence in the back of the stage, effectively bringing the dancing to the fore. The atmosphere was enhanced by dramatic lighting by John Bartenstein and attractive and authentic costumes by Collette Benoit.

       

      Click here to read the rest of the Rutland Herald Review review.

    • august 1, 2015 – Theuppervalley.com – west side story premiers at opera north

      West Side Story Premiers at Opera North

      By Susan Apel, TheUpperVally.com

       

      I first met Tony and Maria in a movie theatre in 1961. After the first twenty minutes of West Side Story, my father dragged us all out of there; he didn’t think real men, particularly the tough kids that populated our neighborhood, danced.

       

      Thank God then for Jerome Robbins, choreographer extraordinare, who knew without a doubt that they did. Stylized but only somewhat for the stage, it looks as if Robbins didn’t so much create the moves, but rather, saw the dance in the everyday motions of street bravado, all angles and power. There are many reasons to see Opera North’s West Side Story at the Lebanon Opera House; the dancing, so convincingly placed on the stage by choreographer Cathy Young and two dozen young dancers from the Boston Conservatory, is but one. It is extraordinary, from the crouching, finger-snapping menace of the Jets and the Sharks, to the fight scenes, and unexpectedly to the well-executed strong and funny Officer Krupke number in the second act.

       

      The music is Leonard Bernstein’s, the book by Arthur Laurents, the lyrics by a then budding Stephen Sondheim, who put their heads together over many years to yield the musical that premiered on Broadway in 1957. (A concise history can be found here; the original concept was a story about Catholics and Jews and at one time was called East Side Story, or simply, Romeo.) The story of forbidden love is eternal and oh-so-appealing, and as the current director, Evan Pappas, says in the program notes, “. . . the issue of immigration and who is a true American has never been more prevalent.” The story, well-known and well-loved by West Side Story audiences, at first felt a little shopworn. Is there any point to this seemingly pointless conflict, I had to resist shouting from my seat? I didn’t have to; Laurents must have anticipated the audience impatience and created the character of Doc, (tellingly listed under the category of “adults” in the program) who keeps asking the Sharks and Jets some variation of the question, “Why are you fighting?” He feels both exasperated and powerless, like us watching Ferguson, or Charleston, even as we wonder which city is next, where men make war and women, like Anita and Maria, live with the consequences. Part of the pain of watching such a well-known piece—shocking in its original production—is that we all know what is coming.

       

      In the meantime, though, all that tough stuff is balanced by the sweet ballads: Maria, Tonight, Somewhere. Victor Starsky is possessed of a beautiful and strong voice as Tony. Maria (Candace Matthews) is suitably virginal, coquettish and “pretty” and finally, stricken and forever changed. Like Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno before her, Arianna Rosario as Anita grabs your gaze in every scene she is in, particularly in her dancing with the Shark girls in America.

       

      Have I mentioned the full orchestra? Right there on stage, behind a translucent scrim, tackling Bernstein’s score under the direction of Opera North’s Louis Burkot.

       

      Fans of Opera North may have noticed that in recent years, it has stretched in concept and in physical location. In addition to classic opera, the summer’s productions include notable American musicals like West Side Story. It has also brought opera out into the community, staging events in schools and other Upper Valley venues like the Dartmouth Outing Club and St. Gaudens. The full productions remain at the Lebanon Opera House.

       

      West Side Story will continue its run through mid-August. There are performances on August 1, 4, 8, 11 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on August 5 at 2:00 p.m. If you need a little incentive, listen to West Side Story’s overture here. It will make you want to crouch down, snap your fingers on both hands, and buy a ticket.

  • 2015 PRESS RELEASES

    • July 15 – Opera North Banners Now On Lebanon Opera House

      For the first time ever, Opera North has posted banners on the Lebanon Opera House, announcing this summer’s upcoming season.

       

      Technical Director Craig Mowery, working with experienced crew, hung the banners on Wednesday, July 15th, to promote Opera North’s productions starting July 31st.

       

      Next time you’re in Lebanon, drive by the Green and see our banners! Post your banner pics to Instagram: #operanorthbanners

      Opera North Banners Now On Lebanon Opera House

    • June 20 – Meet WSS Choreographer Cathy Young

      Meet WSS Choreographer Cathy Young

       

      Opera North is very pleased to welcome Cathy Young, Director of Boston Conservatory’s Dance Division, to Opera North this summer to choreograph West Side Story. Cathy received her B.A. in sociology and women’s studies from Harvard and her M.F.A. in dance from the University of Illinois. She is nationally recognized as a master teacher and has taught classes at more than 30 colleges around the country, as well as at the Bates Dance Festival, Florida Dance Festival and the International Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. While she is perhaps best known as a teacher and choreographer of jazz dance, her thirty years of experience in the field of dance have been wide-ranging and diverse. Throughout her career, she has been immersed as a performer and choreographer in the areas of modern and post-modern dance, improvisation and contact improvisation and ballet, which was central to her training and development.

       

      As a performer, Cathy has danced with a number of companies, including Zenon Dance Company and Danny Buraczeski’s JAZZ DANCE!.She has also toured extensively throughout the US and Europe, and she has performed in prestigious venues such as the Joyce Theater in New York and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. For the past 20 years, Cathy has focused on creating her own work, a dynamic mix of styles and dance forms that intermingles jazz, modern, contact improvisation, social dance and gymnastics. She creates choreography for her own company, Cathy Young Dance, and has been commissioned by major companies around the world. She is the recipient of awards and grants from various arts foundations. She was previously Department Chair and an Associate Professor of Dance at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, before taking on the role of Director of the Dance Division for The Boston Conservatory.

       

      Cathy will be working with a team of talented dancers hand-selected from the Boston Conservatory to form much of the cast of West Side Story. The entire cast of dancers will start rehearsals in Boston at BoCo and will then travel to Lebanon before West Side Story opens to rehearse at Lebanon Opera House.

       

      Click here to learn more about Cathy and Boston Conservatory’s Dance Division.

    • June 15 – west side story cast

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES WEST SIDE STORY CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM

       

      OPERA NORTH, located in Lebanon NH, is one of the leading summer music festivals in New England (Evans Haile, General Director), celebrating its 33rd season. The company announces the principal cast and creative for West Side Story, with performances from July 31-August 13.

       

      The show will be directed by Evan Pappas (Broadway My Favorite Year, Parade, Putting It Together), choreographed by Cathy Young, (Head of Dance at Boston Conservatory), and conducted by Opera North Artistic Director Louis Burkot.

      The cast includes Arianna Rosario (West Side Story National Tour) as Anita, Warren Curtis, (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, A Chorus Line) as Bernardo, Victor Starsky (Celebrant/Bernstein Mass) as Tony, and Candace Lynn Mathews as Maria.

       

      The production is the first collaboration between Opera North and the Boston Conservatory of Music (recently named one of the top 10 conservatories in the country and the top contemporary dance program in the country by OnStage). The ensemble includes Evan Kinnane as Baby John, Jordan Ford as Riff, Andrew Norlen as A-Rab, Andy Garcia as Action, and Alexander Swift as Chino.

       

      Set design by Robert Fetterman and costumes by Collette Benoit.

       

      Opera North is famous for its roster of noted American singers including Nathan Gunn,  Faith Esham, Todd Thomas, and Kristen Choi to name a few, and its large scale orchestra performs at the Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon, NH, every July and August, with additional concerts at historic sites throughout the New England Upper Valley. It is the region’s only professional opera company, and the only full time opera company in the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

       

      This season also includes Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land and Mozart’s Abduction From the Seraglio, directed by Russ Treyz, and designed by David Arsenault.

    • February 22 – iris mowery joins opera north

      Iris Mowery joins Opera North

       

      Production Manager Ashley Barrow and Technical Director Craig Mowery welcomed their baby girl, Iris Blair Mowery, into the world, in February of this year. Baby Iris quickly sidestepped the usual milestones of cutting teeth and rolling over, and jumped into production life at Opera North in May, as she helped set up for our annual fundraising gala. As our 2015 Season came to a close, Iris once again stepped in to help with Load Out and earned her very own "Crew" onesie as a thank-you. Welcome to the team, Iris! You are sure cuter than most of our crew!!

    • February 21 – Evans haile

      OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR

       

      Opera North today announced  the appointment of Evans Haile as the new General Director of the organization. Haile succeeds Pamela A. Pantos, who served as Executive Director for six years. Samantha Pause, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Opera North, said, “We are so happy that Evans has joined Opera North. His enthusiasm and wealth of experience will serve the Upper Valley well.” Haile was selected at the conclusion of a thorough national search conducted by the Arts Consulting Group (ACG).

       

      Haile joins Opera North with more than twenty five years of experience as a producer and artistic director, and a career that includes 15 years helming the Cape Playhouse (America’s oldest professional summer theater), and reopening and creating the new infrastructure of the North Shore Music Theater with Bill

      Hanney. In New York, Haile has produced at Lincoln Center, New York’s historic Town Hall and off-Broadway. He was producer and host of NPR’s “Toast of the Town…A Song for…” series, and is the leader of the Gainesville (Florida) orchestra, among many other artistic endeavors. This past year, he has been Master Artist in Residence at Santa Fe College in Florida. Originally trained as a conductor, he has worked with many major orchestras including the Boston Pops, the Florida Grand Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Sarasota orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony, to name a few.

      Haile has built a reputation for raising the national profile of arts institutions and maintaining their artistic integrity while building a solid fiscal foundation. “I am honored and excited to lead Opera North, to ensure the company achieves its mission and continues to be a strong and vital regional institution,” he said.

       

      Bruce D. Thibodeau, President of Arts Consulting Group, said, "Evans brings a unique blend of talent and expertise to Opera North, including perspective gained as a producer, artist and artistic director. It was an honor partnering with Opera North in the national search for its new general director during this energizing chapter in the organization's history."

       

      About Opera North

      Opera North is now entering its 35th season and is the region’s only professional opera company and the only full-time opera company in the tri-state region of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine that stages original productions. An opera company known nationally for its summer festival and Resident Artist program, Opera North is proud to give back to the community through its Education & Outreach Program.  The company is currently engaged in preparations for its 2015 summer season including Tony award-winning West Side Story, Mozart’s hilarious The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Aaron Copland’s touching The Tender Land. Learn more or purchase tickets.

       

      About Arts Consulting Group, Inc. (ACG)

      ACG is the leading provider of hands-on interim management, executive search, revenue enhancement consulting, facilities & program planning, and organizational development services for the arts and culture industry. The firm has offices in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle and Denver with consultants located throughout North America to best serve the needs of its clients. Project consulting services include capital campaign management, donor prospecting & research, strategic planning, team building summits, marketing strategy & implementation, financial planning, transition management, Board training, and capital campaign management among other services. For more information on ACG, please call (888) 234.4236 or visit www.ArtsConsulting.com.

Opera North      •     Lebanon, New Hampshire      •      info@operanorth.org

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