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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
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 15, 2016
Festival Orchestra, Alan Pollack, conductor. Directed by Erin Neff. Singers: Phil Meyer (Osmin); Chester Pidduck (Pedrillo); Nikki Einfeld (Konstanze); Molly Phelan (Blonde); Sergio Gonzales (Belmonte)

Molly Phelan (l) and Paul Thompson (r) with Seraglio Cast Curtain Call July 15

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 Artistic Director Allan Pollack, the three-act work from 1782 was staged with minimal sets and a small cast of six. As in past MMF operas the orchestra was placed behind the sets, and the tent’s direct and non-reverberation sound was fresh and live, though as in Wagner’s Festspielhaus not seeing the conductor and bow movement can seem disconcerting.

Erin Neff directed the production that was sung in the original German with English supertitles positioned in the middle of the set and long intra-aria monologues, also in English. Set lighting and costumes were minimal.

Bass Phil Meyer (Osmin) dominated the first act with antics that bordered on slapstick, with plot twists in the Turkish harem pitting Sergio González (Belmonte) against Pasha Selim (Paul Thompson) and Osmin to rescue ladies captured by ersatz pirates. Mr. Thompson had a commanding deep speaking voice and Mr. Meyer captured throughout the three acts the comic nuances of Osmin’s villainy. His legs had ample spring.

A highlight of Act II, and perhaps the entire opera, was Nikki Einfeld’s (Konstanze) extended aria “Martern Aller Arten” where she nailed the character’s romantically faithful pain and lament, and with the subsequent mundane torture scene brought down the house with loud applause. In these sections of the score Mr. Pollack drew lovely playing from the horns and timpanist Mark Veragge, and a bevy of short solos from of cello (Stephen Harrison), flute (Mindy Rosenfeld) and clarinet (Eric Kritz). In this music one could hear snippets of Mozart (other operas, the “Jupiter” Symphony) that would appear in the following decade, and Mr. Pollack made a deft selection of tempos that elegantly supported the singers.

A foil for both Osmin and Pedrillo (Chester Pidduck) was the lively Molly Phelan, playing Blonde with great panache but with pinched notes in the high treble. The famous quartet, mirroring the duos and arias “Durch Zärtichkeit und Schmeichein” and Welch Ein Geschick,” easily established for the singers and the audience of 600 that devoted and steadfast love would conquer the Pasha’s seduction demands and Osmin’s murderous threats.

Mr. González’s voice on this evening lacked a rich tenor glow but had enough projection to carry to the back of the tent, and Mr. Pedrillo’s big moments during the third act’s midnight scene, when escape for all four is at hand, was both urgent and funny. After the singer’s release from Seraglio captivity the conductor drove the music to a potent conclusion, and then joined Ms. Neff and the cast on stage for an extended ovation.

A common request for Festival listeners is to ask for repeat performances of opera productions, but alas, like in past seasons, this masterly opera was mounted just for one night. The composer surely would have demanded more.