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Opera
ONE-NIGHT STAND AT MMF'S ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 15, 2016
Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry. Conducted by Festival Arti...
Opera
FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances ...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Opera
SIR JOHN'S VISUAL FEAST IN CINNABAR THEATER FALSTAFF PRODUCTION
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff. In only the Italian master's second comedy, Fals...
Opera
A PROVOCATIVE DON GIOVANNI AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 18, 2014
At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare. Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confus...
Opera
HILARIOUS "MARRIAGE OF FIGARO" AT CINNABAR
by Nicki Bell
Friday, May 30, 2014
The Cinnabar Theater mounted a delightful, madcap, rambunctious, completely charming, extremely funny, very classy production of Mozartʼs opera "The Marriage of Figaro" from May 30 to June 15. With the feel of a 1920s Upstairs/Downstairs farce, it was sung in English and easily understood. Tho...
Opera
POWERFUL OPENING NIGHT FOR CINNABAR'S CARMEN
by Vaida Falconbridge
Saturday, June 01, 2013
When "Carmen" debuted at the Opera Comique in 1875, it was poorly received. Its composer, Georges Bizet, died a few months later, thinking he had written another failure. Now widely considered the most popular opera in the world, "Carmen" was excellently performed and given an enthusiastic reception...
Opera
OPERATIC TWIN BILL OPENS AT SONOMA STATE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Two one-act operas--Haydn's "The Deserted Island" and Vaughan Williams' "Riders to the Sea"--currently being mounted by Sonoma State University's music, theater and dance departments, reflect the University's usual innovative staging and production. On the Feb. 7 opening night Person Theater's 400 ...
Opera
TERRIFIC SINGING AND COLORFUL STAGING HIGHLIGHT CINNABAR'S DON GIOVANNI
by Richard Riccardi
Friday, March 23, 2012
Question: where do dedicated North Bay opera lovers go to experience great performances when San Francisco Opera’s season ends? The quick answer is the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. Cinnabar Theater’s latest production, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, K. 527, is a splendid experience that opened a nine-sho...
Opera
HENNESSEY TRIUMPHS IN CINNABAR'S WEST COAST PREMIERE OF TOBIAS PICKER'S EMMELINE
by Richard Riccardi
Friday, May 28, 2010
Cinnabar Theater continues to excel in the Northern California music world. This small company has once again raised the musical and theatrical bar in their terrific production of Tobias Picker’s 1996 opera “Emmeline” that opened a West Coast premiere May 28 to a boisterous full house in their smal...
OPERA REVIEW
Emmeline / Friday, May 28, 2010
Carrie Hennessey (Emmeline), Cary Rosko (Aunt Hannah), Robert Stafford (Maguire), Will Hart Meyer (Matthew Gurney), Eileen Morris (Mrs. Bass), Brian Rosen (Henry Mosher), Melody Caspari (Sophie).
Nina Shuman, music director
Elly Lichenstein, stage director

Robert Stafford and Carrie Hennessey (Photo: E. Chazankin)

HENNESSEY TRIUMPHS IN CINNABAR'S WEST COAST PREMIERE OF TOBIAS PICKER'S EMMELINE

by Richard Riccardi
Friday, May 28, 2010

Cinnabar Theater continues to excel in the Northern California music world. This small company has once again raised the musical and theatrical bar in their terrific production of Tobias Picker’s 1996 opera “Emmeline” that opened a West Coast premiere May 28 to a boisterous full house in their small Petaluma theater.

“Emmeline” is a uniquely American story dealing with child labor, 19th century family values and the exceedingly difficult subject of incest. This challenging and utterly thrilling piece was carried off beautifully by the entire Cinnabar cast and crew. The character of Emmeline never leaves the stage for any significant time, and Carrie Hennessey in the title role is not only a consummate singer but a splendid actress. Seldom have I seen such an intensely believable operatic actress in such an intimate and personal setting. When a musical artist’s acting surpasses their exceptional vocal performance, you have nothing short of a stunning experience. Ms. Hennessey portrayed the naďve 13-year-old Emmeline and the Emmeline of 34 years with equal aplomb. Robert Stafford plays her nemesis, first as Mr. Maguire, then as Pastor Avery, with skill and understanding. Cary Ann Rosko gives a chilling performance in the role of Emmeline’s Aunt Hannah - an acerbic, pious but still human character working beautifully off of Hennessey’s sweetness. Other notable performances in this production include Brian Rosen as Henry Mosher, Joan Hawley as Sarah Mosher, Erin Ashe as Ella Burling, Eileen Morris as Mrs. Bass, Kimberly Anderman as Harriet Mosher and Melody Caspari as Sophie and the funniest of town gossips. Will Hart Meyer, as the young Matthew Gurney, managed to successfully execute the extreme vocal ranges of his character while acting with panache. Also impressive was Miguel Evangelista as Hooker, singing the composer’s rhythmically difficult angular phrases with accuracy and appropriate hysteria in the factory scene. Also of note in the same scene were Ms. Caspari and Ms. Morris, spinning gorgeous legato lines above the crazy jagged orchestral din of the factory.

Mr. Picker’s score is as balanced dramatically and musically as the above-mentioned factory scene, clearly reflecting the opposing dissonance and rare harmony of Emmeline’s life, and occasionally combining the two in a fashion completely true to the action and story. A testament to Mr. Picker’s score is that it is lush and romantic when necessary, even in this condensed orchestration, yet pointed and intricate when the story calls for that support. So often composers simply miss that all-important link to the complexities of the stage. Tobias Picker does not.

With set changes punctuated by projections acting as scene cards, the action flowed swiftly and smoothly. Cinnabar makes the most of its minimal space by the placement of key set pieces around a series of platforms of diverse heights, and this, along with the projections, creates a successful stage environment belying its small size. Directed with full respect to the story by Elly Lichenstein, there is not an awkward or false moment in this elegantly crafted production. In deft partnership with the stage action is Music Director Nina Shuman’s precise conducting and a skilled orchestra under her baton.

Special praise needs to go to the Cinnabar Girl’s chorus, many as young as fourteen. These young women performed this difficult score with professionalism and accuracy, dramatically enriching the opening-night with youthful, yet fully operatic, spine-chilling sound. Ms. Shuman trains them young, and trains them well.

The composer was in the audience for opening night and graciously took questions and comments from the audience following the performance.

“Emmeline” continues at Cinnabar through June 12 and details are at www.cinnabartheater.org. The production is exceptional with outstanding singing from the principals through the girl’s chorus, and the orchestra is sonorous. To experience this challenging opera is clearly an opportunity not to be missed.