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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
Sonoma State University Dept. of Music / Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Zachary Gordin, conductor and continuo. Lily Bogas, Daniella Caveney, Anna Leach, Alexandria Alonso, Jennifer Silvera and Janell Balico, soprano; Rachel Levin, mezzo-soprano; Jack Adkins, baritone; Mathew Adiao, tenor; Caleb Forschen, violin; Brynn Dally, cello; Emma Webb, organ.

Daniella Caveney (l) and Lily Bogas (A. Wasserman photo)

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 university at the Green Music Center (the first was faculty member Brian Wilson’s one-act Agamemnon in 2014). For now, a second performance of Dido and Aeneas may take place next spring.

The vocal lineup was all Sonoma State students but two: Lily Bogas, a 16-year-old student at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, sang the role of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, with passion, queenly poise and a beautiful soprano voice; and soprano Daniella Caveney was brought in as a chorus member to bulk up the sound of the Chorus, which was bare-bones, numbering only five singers that were joined between duets and trios by most of the principals. It was a wise choice.

Dido and Aeneas is often presented as a concert performance, but not here. The work from 1689 was fully staged, featuring characterizations, dramatic action, mime, choreography, costumes, and set, with lighting and props. The costume of the Sorceress (black bustier, tights, cloak and a cape of dark feathers) was a standout. Dido’s lady-in-waiting’s dress was a little fancier than her sister Belinda’s dress, and because both were grooming Dido and singing to her, and there was no libretto in the program, initial confusion followed.

Purcell’s first and only true opera can be successfully scaled down, as this production showed. Joining Mr. Gordin in a tiny orchestra of four instruments were Caleb Forschen, violin; cellist Brynn Dally; and Emma Webb, organ. Ms. Webb’s organ part was her terrific evocation of a storm, which is brought on by the Witches to separate Dido and Aeneas in Act I, Scene 2.

This opera lends itself to youthful voices. The young singers' breath control and pitch accuracy were impressive. Along with Ms. Bogas’ exquisite Dido there were lovely performances by soprano Janell Balico (Belinda) and by mezzo-soprano Rachel Levin as the evil Sorceress who wants to destroy Dido. Soprano Anna Leach sang beautifully as Dido’s lady-in-waiting; baritone Jack Adkins was a handsome and conflicted Aeneas; and tenor Mathew Adiao performed a elegant aria “Come Away, Fellow Sailors,” with precise enunciation. The two Witches, minions of the Sorceress, were sung with sweet malice by sopranos Jennifer Silvera and Alexandria Alonzo.

The narrative sweep of the opera leaves something to be desired, as there are many spaces that could be filled dramatically, but the drama hinges on the passionate love that is sparked between Dido and Aeneas. Eros was not an element explored in this production as much as the supernatural. Though the story is based on Virgil’s Aenead, it’s a tale of magical manipulation and poor choices by mortals, royal though they may be.

The Sorceress’s Elf, who impersonates Mercury to convince Aeneas to abandon Dido, is a singing part for counter-tenor or mezzo-soprano. In this production chorus member Joshua Lovell as Elf/Mercury had to stand silently as the Sorceress, like a ventriloquist, delivered his message from a balcony above. This somewhat drained the moment, and it might have worked better for Ms. Levin to sing directly behind Mr. Lovell, showing that he is her creature. High points in the music were many. They included the Act I duet between Belinda and Dido’s lady-in-waiting, “Fear No Danger to Ensue”; the wonderful and sinister “The Queen of Carthage” (“Ha Ha Ha”), sung by the Sorceress, Witches and Chorus; and Dido’s glorious tragic lament “When I Am Laid in Earth”.

The audience, which included many family members and friends of the cast, gave the performers a standing ovation, and then surrounded them in the post-concert lobby with love and celebratory flowers.