Opera Canada review of Little Women

Providing performing opportunities for young singers and students, Halifax Summer Opera Workshop has largely presented professional-standard productions over the past five years. It has also made a significant repertoire contribution to Halifax. This year it staged Mark Adamo’s Little Women in a heartwarming production well directed by Edward Franko, beautifully sung by its cast and dynamically accompanied by Gordon Gerrard. The unappealing dresses of the four sisters might warrant the only criticism.

Julia Barber, Cara Adams, Mary-Claire Sanderson and Kristi Assaly, the sisters in the Aug. 13 performance, developed very distinct identities while equally contributing to the moving musical storytelling. Mitch Aldrich, Alyssa Labreque, Megan Quick, Jeffrey Goble and Stephen Barradell also contributed lively, energetic and interesting interpretations of the famous 1868 American novel set in New England. There as, however, one outstanding moment in the performance, when Dr Bhaer, performed by Justin Welsh, appeared in Act II to sing to Jo in German. Baritone Welsh has enormous talent and his brief presence on the stage brought the audience to its feet with applause.

– Daphna Levit
Opera Canada, Winter 2009

Wonderful review of Little Women in The Coast!

The starboard cast of Little Women
The starboard cast of Little Women - photo by Nick Pearce

You don’t have to have read Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women to enjoy Mark Adamo’s 1998 opera that’s based on it. However, you may well be inspired to read it after you see it—the moving and vivid portrayal of family strikes all the right chords and is a reminder of what’s really important in life. Valerie Beck as Jo, the stubborn and feisty sister who clings to the past, carries the weight of the show on her shoulders, and what capable shoulders she has! She is supported by a marvelous cast, including Stefan Fehr as Laurie, whose lovely voice I’d love to carry in my pocket for rainy days. Don’t be afraid that this is “modern” opera. The music is surprising lyrical and catchy enough that you’ll be humming it for days. –Kate Watson

Read the review at The Coast

Halifax Summer Opera Workshop presents Little Women and Opera Excerpts


Halifax Summer Opera Workshop presents Little Women and Opera Excerpts

To mark its fifth year of operation, Halifax Summer Opera Workshop presents Mark Adamo’s LIttle Women (directed by Edward Franko) and a varied program of Opera Excerpts (directed by Nina Scott-Stoddart) at the Sir James Dunn Theatre from August 7 through August 16.

HSOW started in 2005 with a production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte involving nine performers. In 2006 the number had grown to thirteen for a production of Don Giovanni. Two years ago, in response to growing interest, the workshop expanded, producing two operas, fully staged and costumed: The Magic Flute and Giulio Cesare, with over thirty singers. Last year HSOW featured almost 40 singers, chosen from 200 applicants from across North America, in fully-staged productions of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Menotti’s The Consul.

This year we welcome 25 university students or young professional singers from eight provinces and three states, who are all spending a month in Halifax rehearsing and performing the two shows. This year the singers range in age from 18 to 30.

Little Women, by American composer Mark Adamo, is vivacious music-theatre of charm, wit and humor. Adamo based his two-act, eight-scene opera on the classic novel of the same title by Louisa May Alcott set during the U.S. Civil War. Adamo brings considerable verve and freshness to Alcott’s story, with the result that this opera is never less than endearing. The opera focuses on three central events from the Civil War-era coming-of-age tale of the four March sisters — Meg’s wedding, Laurie’s infatuation with Jo, and Beth’s death – and unifies them dramatically with music. Adamo’s work (his first opera) was an artistic and commercial success from the moment of its premiere in Houston in 1998, and has received many performances around the world, including a PBS broadcast. Although this is the most “modern’ opera HSOW has ever performed, it’s also, ironically, our first period piece, with period costumes and set. This is also Little Women’s Nova Scotia premiere.

HSOW’s Opera Excerpts show takes the audience on a tour of opera, from Handel to Bernstein, presented in a pared-down, theatrical way. Twelve passionate young singers perform a range of entertaining scenes and arias from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Handel’s Alcina, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Bernstein’s Candide, among others. This should be an enjoyable and accessible program for both established opera lovers and those wishing to explore or discover this most powerful of theatrical and musical art forms. There will be projected English translations for all excerpts in foreign languages.

Opera is a difficult art to master, and opera workshops give young singers the opportunity learn and hone the essentials of both stagecraft and singing. The Halifax workshop has become one of the most popular in Canada. This year’s workshop includes group theatre warm-ups with Edward Franko and Nina Scott-Stoddart and masterclasses with Dal professor Marcia Swanston, University of Toronto professor Lenard Whiting and the music director for Little Women, Gordon Gerrard, the conductor of the Calgary Opera.

One of the principal aims of the workshop is to give singers from Atlantic Canada a chance to work on their craft close to home. This year Maritimers comprise almost half of the company (our largest percentage so far), including a significant contingent from the Dalhousie Music Department, which, along with Dal Theatre, is a strong supporter of the programme.

The two shows have completely separate teams of music director, stage director and stage manager. For Opera Excerpts it’s Dalhousie University’s Lynette Wahlstrom, Dal Opera Workshop’s Nina Scott-Stoddart and Maria Murphy. For Little Women it’s Gordon Gerrard of Calgary Opera, Toronto stage director Edward Franko and Jodey Reeves. Other production staff are shared between the two shows. Bonnie Archibald-Ahalt is costume coordinator and Judy Reade is managing props.

Both works will be sung in the original languages with projected English translations where needed for the Excerpts. Each opera is double cast, and will be accompanied by piano.

Enthusiastic, energetic and innovative productions presented by North America’s young and emerging artists. That’s HSOW: opera that’s accessible in all senses of the word.



The Halifax Summer Opera Workshop presents two shows this year: American composer Mark Adamo’s setting of LITTLE WOMEN and a program of OPERA EXCERPTS by Bernstein, Mozart, Gershwin and Handel from August 7 to 16 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax. All shows are fully staged and costumed, and accompanied by piano. Performances start at 7:30 pm, except for Sunday the 16th, which starts at 2:30 pm.

Tickets: $20 adults, $15 for students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under, available
from the Dalhousie Arts Centre Box Office at 6101 University Avenue, or by phoning (902) 494-3820 or 1 800 874-1669

The Halifax Summer Opera Workshop website is at halifaxsummeroperaworkshop.com

– 30 –


Little Women by Mark Adamo
(in English)
August 7, 10, 13 and 15 at 7:30 pm

Opera Excerpts
(in original languages with projected English translations where needed)
August 8, 11, 14 at 7:30 pm, and August 16 at 2:30 pm

Sir James Dunn Theatre
Dalhousie Arts Centre
6101 University Avenue

Tickets $20, $15 seniors/students, $5 children 12 and under
call the Box Office at (902) 494-3820 or 1 800 874-1669
or buy your tickets online at https://kil-dacweb-2.cohn.dal.ca/online/

HSOW starts in two weeks

We’re all very excited about the start of the fifth annual Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, which gets underway in two weeks!

I’m thrilled about the calibre of participants and faculty we have this year, and I know we’ll have a marvellous time rehearsing and performing together.

On that note, I’d like to welcome Jodey Reeves, our new Stage Manager for Little Women, to the HSOW team 🙂

See you all soon!


Audition Results

Thanks to all the people who sang for us in Halifax today!

I’m starting to notify people now if they’ve been cast. Some roles will take a little time to work out, so it may be a week or two until some of the casting is finalized.

Again, this year, we’ve had far more wonderful singers apply than we have room for in the program. We wish we could cast you all, but it’s just not possible.

If you have to know right away if you’ve been cast, please email me and I’ll try to let you know where things stand with your application.