Rave audience member review of Poppea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE – August 8, 2018

High note for Halifax

WIMBY! (Wow, in my backyard!)

This spring, I attended nine operas in prestigious, and often expensive, opera houses in Zurich, Munich, Milan, Turin and Piacenza, but none gave me more pleasure than The Coronation of Poppea that I saw recently at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

The singing and acting were at a consistently very high level, the string and organ/harpsichord accompaniment was always supportive but never overpowering, the costumes colourful and imaginative, and the complex plot easy to follow thanks to subtitles that included the name of the character whose words were being translated. I don’t think that many Haligonians realize what a musical and theatrical treasure they have in town until Aug. 12. Otherwise, there would have been no empty seats.

The Halifax Summer Opera Festival brings together young singers from all over North America and beyond to put on four performances of each of three operas. In addition to the aforementioned, this year includes Don Giovanni and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each opera has two casts, so it is very interesting to see how a second cast tweaks the performance.

Judging by the excellent singing I heard at introductory presentations at the Halifax Central Library a couple of weeks ago, I have every confidence that Don Giovanni and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be as enjoyable as was The Coronation of Poppea.

David Mercer, Halifax

See original at Chronicle-Herald website

Operation: Opera by Moira Donovan of The Coast

This weekend at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, experience the big sounds of opera classics, without all of the stereotypes

These days, while the rest of campus is shrouded in mid-summer silence, the theatres and subterranean corridors of the Dalhousie Arts Centre are a hive of activity.

In mid-July, 70 young musicians and directors from across Canada descended on Halifax for the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, a four-week program that culminates in a week-and-a-half of performances ending August 12: Carmen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and four one-act operas. For Dr. Anthony Radford, director of the workshop’s production of Carmen—which debuted in 1875 as a flop, yet went on the become one of the most frequently performed examples of the genre—the workshop is a window onto the art form, showcasing some of its best-beloved pieces while hinting at its future.

“For the audience, they get to see what’s going on in the world of opera today” Radford says. “That’s kind of a cool thing—that you don’t need to go to the big cities to see that.”

The workshop cultivates an accessible approach, providing an opportunity for seasoned devotees and neophytes alike to experience opera in an intimate setting. Nina Scott-Stoddart, program director, believes that the scaled-down quality of the workshop is more than a function of its relatively small size; it’s also a particular way to engage with the art form. “I think there’s something about it when you strip all of the big opera stereotypes away—big people in front of big sets, the orchestra—it’s so much more immediate” she says. “You get right to the emotional heart of the piece.”

Although popular conception often understands opera as an archaic medium, participants emphasize that it’s important not to underestimate the energy and creativity that youth can bring, especially in a program where most of the performers are under 25.

For Haligonian Andrew Pickett, who plays Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opera is ultimately about art itself, and can be transformative. “We think of opera on a social level, that belongs to the elite and that’s not what it actually is” he says. “Opera is the marriage of music and drama and that’s what’s really important—the magic that happens on stage. It’s made me a believer.”

Grab your opera glasses, Halifax, and prepare to be converted.

via Operation: Opera.

Fine cast, outstanding voices, great music opera workshop – Chronicle Herald Review

Chelsea Mahan, during dress rehearsal last week, plays Helena in the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Sir James Dunn Theatre.  (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)

The operative word with the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop production of Midsummer Night’s Dream is magic.

I might be tempted to say “half-magic” but I don’t think magic is divisible.

The “half” is because a workshop production, even one as good as the one I saw in the Dunn Theatre Friday night, with piano accompaniment instead of orchestra, can’t and doesn’t aspire to present the full experience.

But what it does, with the help of a simple, uncluttered and extremely playable set, is hone your interest and drives you straight to iTunes, or wherever your recorded delights are kept, to get the full monty.

Pianist Greg Myra works the keyboard like an illusionist, spinning out of it webs of intricate musical figures in all registers, energizing the large cast of 19 to create four levels of beings, mischievously mingled in erotic fancies played out in a forest outside of Athens on a sweet midsummer’s night.

Dukes, courtiers, the mercurial Puck, the fairy kingdom of Oberon and Titania and the inimitable rustics all work the simple set with its six pillars. The off-centre platform enables the flow of the stage action.

The story is Shakespeare’s, condensed into two acts and the words his as well, which makes the side-titles projected on a screen useful and necessary.

But the diction of the cast is so good, you hardly need that aid, which is lucky because it can distract you.

There are two casts with two performances each between now and Sunday. Friday night’s cast will perform again on Thursday, while an alternate cast performed Saturday night and will again on Aug. 11.

All the voices were clear and well cast on opening night. But the most outstanding singer was Quebec soprano Frederique Drolet as Titania, with a fiery stage presence and a voice of pure crystal.

Counter-tenor Albert Montanez sang Oberon. He commanded the stage with a regal stride and could come on strong with an unpredictable scariness, though he seldom entered that counter-tenor nastiness that strips ions from metal. He certainly had it, but the part allowed him to let it out only once.

Steven Bourque as Puck, with a slim and diminutive athletic physique, was perhaps not as menacing as he could have been. He allowed Oberon to intimidate him.

Patrick MacDevitt and Nicole Stellino (Lysander and Hermia), Neil Reimer and Chelsea Mahan (Demetrius and Helena) played off each other well as they suffered the mood-changing fragrance of Puck’s love potion.

But, in this marvellous opera, Benjamin Britten gave full play to the rustics — Bottom, Quince, Flute, Snug, Snout and Starveling — as they rehearse and stage the farcical romantic tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Jeremy Hirsch, as Nick Bottom the weaver, takes charge of the whole show, bosses everyone around and suggests himself for all the roles before he is squelched.

Later on we know he’s heading for trouble and don’t feel a bit sorry.

Hirsch is really too young and too dapper for this comic character, but he overcame those limitations to impose his own stage authority.

During the performance, Flute (Max Zander) as Thisbe, who collapsed in stage fright during rehearsals, suddenly took fire in performance before the Duke of Theseus. He buzzed dangerously around the set in a long white gown with funnels for voluptuous breasts.

In the end, with a chorus of eight fairies including Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peasebottom and Moth, Britten wrote some of the most exquisitely delicate, fresh and sweet music to bring the opera to a close.

(spedersen@ns.sympatico.ca)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream review in The Coast by Kate Watson

HSOW’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A memorable take on an old favourite

Posted by Kate Watson on Sun, Aug 5, 2012 at 2:26 PM

HSOW.jpg

While I may not be an out-and-out opera buff, I am eternally grateful to Halifax Summer Opera Workshop for introducing me to the delights of some accessible works over the past few years. And as of now, their latest production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has risen to the top of my “favourites” list.

The opera, written by Benjamin Britten, is pure magic. Britten’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Dream focuses primarily on the machinations within the fairy world, and his music seems intrinsically right for that world.

And while this is show filled with high points, but I’ll give you three just to whet your appetite: Oberon (played by Andrew Pickett) is delightfully perverse and his queen Tytania (Allison Nicholas) is sensuous and exotically beautiful. The pair, along with the fairy crew, close the show with the most haunting and lovely piece of music. Shilpa Sharma as Hermia and Ashley Buckhout as Helena bring down the house with their height-based cat fight. And the mechanicals… well what can I say except funny, funny, funny.

I’ve seen many productions of Dream, but I know this will always stand out for me.

There are two more chances to see this show (one with this cast, one with another) as well as opportunities to see HSOW’s two other offerings Carmen and One Act Operas.

Check out http://halifaxsummeroperaworkshop.com/ for dates, times and prices.

read the original online at The Coast

HSOW’s The Magic Flute a strong, “European” interpretation

I just wanted to share the comments of some friends of friends of ours from Frankfurt in German, who saw The Magic Fluteon Sunday and loved it.

ANY

The “look” of the show was modern European, they said , accurately capturing “the grey banality of evil” (their quote).

ANY

What is most interesting is that they said it was the first North American production they had ever seen that actually reflected what the opera says (misogyny and authoritarianism)– “somebody who can actually understand German took the trouble to read the libretto” is what they said. They told me about one Dutch production where Sarastro’s court was presented as Mussolini’s palace (complete with fasces) and said that was “genau”

ANY

The thing that really excited them– and they had never seen before– was the replacement of Sarastro. They thought that was brilliant (they also thought Tamino would turn into another Sarastro– that he had bought in to the whole authoritarian structure). They are also planning to catch the Port cast production next week.