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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
Sonoma State University Musicians and Dancers / Thursday, February 07, 2013
Sonoma State University Orchestra, conducted by Lynne Morrow. Danielle Cain, stage director. Soloists: Sara Sims, Canela Fulbright McCoubrey, Talia Trozzo (Vaughan Williams) and Katie Foster and Kathleen Barnes (Haydn)

Sara Sims, Canela McCoubrey and Talia Trozzo in Riders to the Sea (L. Mullins photo)

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 seats were two-thirds filled, overwhelmingly by students. Both operas were in English and had supertitles. Is this common for our common language?

Haydn is known mainly today through his masterful symphonies, quartets and perhaps the keyboard sonatas. He wrote at least 14 operas, however, including the 1779 buff opera the buffa "l'Isola Disabitata," performed here in translation as "The Deserted Island." Conductor Lynne Morrow crafted a one 55-minute act from the original two-act version, and led a sprightly overture that with just 12 instruments resounded from the pit into the hall. The cello and bass parts (Laura McClellan and Steven Hoffman) carried well out of the pit, as did Ruth Wilson's horn playing.

Sonic problems began quickly with the appearance of sopranos Kathryn Foster and Kathleen Barnes, as the individual microphones gave an irritating electronic echo at the end of any sound above a mezzo forte. This was ultimately corrected and the singers settled down to performing the silly plot of separated spouses reuniting, and strangers about to be united, on the island of the title.

Peter Crompton's set design had low platform and large rock (the latter fits into the action as a carving stone) backed by a 20-foot round moon, with colors constantly changing. Now much happens with stage direction in this frothy opera, the scenes directed by Danielle Cain, and each vignette melds into the previous one. There is a lot of recitative and some witless stage walking as boys search for girls, and ultimately at least one girl searches for a boy.

Nonetheless, the bouncy Haydn score and deft singing were engaging. Ted Smith's Gernando, the character beached to find a lost mate, was resonantly sung, as was Ms. Barnes' Silvia with a secure top to her voice. Tenor Max Jennings (Enrico) has a small voice and not an especially colorful one for the part, but was careful to never upstage Mr. Smith as he courted the fetching Ms. Barnes, a novice in the ways of men and love.

The audience response to the final chords was raucous and clearly many of the loudest cheers came from friends of the cast. Ms. Morrow received a separate ovation.

Following intermission Vaughan Williams' 45-minute opera "Riders to the Sea" dampened any lingering Haydn frivolity. The set of this somber 1937 work depicted a seaside home of barren timbers, tattered fish netting drapes and stark Irish furniture. Material colors were drab and quickly set a depressive mood. The backdrop of the Deserted Island's first half moon had evolved into a changeable seascape, augmented by adroit lighting by designer Theo Bridant.

The cast was uniformly excellent, especially Sarah Sims' compelling singing of the daughter Nora's role and Talia Trozzo's woeful portrayal of the tragedy-struck family matriarch Maurye. In the early sections of the opera the composer introduces an ascending short leitmotif that precedes many of the short recitatives, and reflects the crushing series of deaths at sea that has been the family's fate. The piano, played by Yvonne Wormer, and Julia Harrell's percussion performance were stellar parts of the evocative sound Ms. Morrow's clear beat drew from the orchestra.

Seemingly innocuous events in this drama impacted the psychology of the singers, from Ms. Sims and Canela Fullbright McCoubrey folding laundry while speaking of their dead brother, to the penetrating look Ms. Trozzo gave to her last son Bartley, departing for his ride to the sea and his demise. A nine-woman chorus, swathed in heavy red cloaks that made them appear almost as apparitions, added to the vocal fabric in melisma. The play of ethereal orchestral sound, the lamenting chorus, Daniel Celidore's mournful oboe solo and Ms. Trozzo's palpable anguish were powerfully present over the last section of the opera. The wash of the sea, through the auditorium's speakers, was a benediction.

The ovation that followed, students recognizing cast members and being moved by the dark tableau, was loud and perhaps slightly incongruous given the stark drama they had just witnessed.

Additional production dates and times are listed in the Calendar tab at www.classicalsonoma.org, including a Feb. 13 matinee performance