Monday, February 9, 2015

An Opera of No Importance--My Bachtrack Review of Opera Philadelphia's Oscar

I was thrilled to travel to Philadelphia on February 6 to see Opera Philadelphia's East Coast Premiere of the new opera Oscar, co-commissioned with The Santa Fe Opera, first performed at Santa Fe in 2013. The opera was composed by Theodore Morrison with a libretto by Mr. Morrison and John Cox, based on the writings of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Sunday Artist Spotlight at Opera Delaware

Opera Delaware announced in January, 2014, it would cancel its planned May, 2014, production of Il Trovatore. Concern arose throughout the land about another regional opera company closing its doors, but General Director Brendan Cooke was confident the company could survive this crisis. Through savvy fundraising and community outreach, the company has indeed survived. In November the world learned Opera Delaware [is] on Solid Financial Ground. The company is now presenting a series of Sunday Artist Spotlights, where artists present full concerts on Sunday afternoons, and also perform preview concerts for patients and families at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Opera Delaware will present an opera festival entitled "Wine, Women, and French Opera" May 8‑17, 2015, including a fully staged presentation of Peter Brook's La Tragédie de Carmen and a concert performance of Lakmé.

Today's Sunday Artist Spotlight featured soprano Sharin Apostolou, with collaborative pianist Jeffrey Miller. Ms. Apostolou is no stranger to these pages, and also no stranger to Opera Delaware audiences. She sang Adina in Opera Delaware's adorable production of L'Elisir d'Amore in 2013. This happy reporter first saw her as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, and has since seen her remarkable performances as Guinevere in Camelot and Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, as well as a fantastic but uncredited supernumerary role in Verdi's King for a Day (Un Giorno di Regno) that earned her a very favorable mention in a New York Times review of the Glimmerglass production.

The program featured American Songbook standards including "It's De-Lovely" and "Someone to Watch Over Me", as well as "Glitter and Be Gay" from Mr. Bernstein's Candide and "They Don't Let You in the Opera if You're a Country Star", a song written for operatically trained Broadway ingenue Kelli O'Hara. Songs like "Where are the Simple Joys of Maidenhood" and "When I Marry Mr. Snow" we're just as lovely and sweet as expected, and "'Til There Was You" and "Along Came Bill" had sweetness and pathos. "Glitter and Be Gay" had dazzling fireworks, and "They Don't Let You in the Opera" had rip-roarin' comedy. My two favorite songs were "Stars and the Moon", made popular by Audra McDonald, and "I'll Be There", a song about a 9/11 widow finding new love. Both had me in tears.

In a question & answer session afterward, Sharin answered the predictable questions about changing styles vocally to suit different musical styles and about the choice of the program selections. Her most insightful comments had to do with a question from a student, about her path to her current career stage—she talked about finding what set her apart from other beautiful young soubrettes and focusing on showing those skills and talents. In effect, on being as genuine as she possibly could be on stage. I hope the students in the audience understood the depth of those words, and how such learning never comes without trial and error, to put it lightly.

As my concert-going companion said, it was the perfect way to spend a gray Sunday afternoon--great company, great singing, great music, and unexpected insights, too!