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Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
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 REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 13, 2018
Festival Orchestra, Luçik Aprahämian, conductor. Singers include Shawnette Sulker, Tonia D'Amelia, Sylvie Jensen, Michael Desnoyers, Bojan Knezevic and Ben Brady. Erin Neff, stage director

Cast In The July 13 Cimarosa Opera Production (Nicholas Wilson Photo)

SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL

by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018

The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our modern ears hold the status of creative giants.

The downside of giants is that they cast shadows, certainly over the centuries. Such is the case for Domenico Cimarosa. Despite having written over 80 operas in his lifetime, and enjoying more success than his contemporary Mozart saw in his lifetime, his works are oft-neglected and undervalued in today’s halls, both large and small.

What a shame, because the 1792 opera Il Matrimonio Segreto is a delightful romp of an operatic romantic comedy that aptly depicts the anxieties and difficulties of two young and unhappy lovers who live surrounded by gossip and selfishness. And the Mendocino Music Festival Orchestra and an adept cast of Festival singers brought Italian composer’s charming score to effervescent life July 13.

The opera was scheduled as part of the 32nd season of the Festival. A crisp, coastal evening proved no challenge for the large white tent, which filled slowly but steadily with opera fans, old and young, despite the performance taking place during a month surely filled with travel and vacations. Ushers seemed decked out for the festive occasion, a few donning top hats. Unticketed music lovers wandered by, listening to the music from afar and enjoying a late sunset over the bluffs.

The set and lighting were impressive, given the limitations of creating a makeshift stage under the massive tent. With orchestra and guest conductor Luçik Aprahämian hidden behind a curtain (surely helping to provide the semblance of a house set but doing nothing for the enjoyment of watching the conductor-orchestra relationship) the overture got the opera buffa in two acts off to a swift start. Her tempi throughout were lively and fitting of the style, which translated into an amusing moment onstage, with the young lovers central to the opera’s plot engaging in private moments in the shadows of the stage curtain.

If the orchestra took a few minutes to find their cohesive sound, the singers did also. Tenor Michael Desnoyers displayed terrific range as Apolino, both vocally and dramatically, but one had a sense with the first duet that he had not quite yet presented his full talents. Shawnette Sulker was sprightly of voice and character as Carolina, with a lovely sound that opened up especially when singing above the staff. Despite the opening duet slowly finding its way in the drama, the music and nerves soon came together, with other cast members joining the stage, giving a sense of ease and playfulness to director Erin Neff’s staging.

Tonia D’Amelia was charmingly clever in vocalism, with a good sense of comedic timing as the overlooked sister Elisetta. Sylvie Jensen’s “Real Housewives” style aunt Fidalma was campy in all the right ways, with a beautiful and rich mezzo quality which perhaps was lost a bit with the tent’s acoustic challenges. The tent also caused much of the Italian language to be absorbed before hitting the audience. Only the two bass singers seemed to display enough “oomph” in their diction to project past the first few rows. Young bass Ben Brady sang with a deep legato that matched the role of the sly and dodgy Count. Bass Bojan Knezevic was a standout in the cast, with the perfect amount of vocal character, over the top facial expressions, and grumpiness of spirit to play into the fatherly stereotype.

The end of the opera was met with robust applause and standing ovations. Indeed, a fun and delightful evening of opera under the white tent.