Let "The Merry Widow" Be Merry

The Boston Lyric Opera (the “BLO”) finished its season – and its tenure at the Shubert Theatre – with Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow. This closing of one chapter and moving onto another was emphasized by the directorial choice of setting the production on the Eve of World War I – New Year’s Eve, to be precise – rather than its original 1905 setting. Clever to emphasize the progression from one place or time to another; that is, until it became apparent that the only directorial vision was “to be clever.”

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BOC's "Family Feuds" : Three Stories, One Wild Ride

BOC's "Family Feuds" : Three Stories, One Wild Ride

Boston Opera Collaborative mounted a lean but impressive production of "Family Feuds" at Central Square Theater last weekend. Raked seating surrounded the modest but thoughtful set on three sides, giving immediate access to the performers -- not a bad seat in the house. This unique program brought together three one-act operas, each with its own cast, director, and pianist (no orchestra or other instruments present). As implied by the title, the three stand-alone stories had similar themes: family we love, family we choose, and family we are stuck with. Three stories, one wild ride.

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A Chorus of "Brains" Fills the Meat-less "La Zombiata"

Even as an opera fan, I admit that the genre needs a reboot for the 21st century. WholeTone Opera presents La Zombiata for Valentine’s Day weekend in February 2016 at the Davis Square Theatre. The original retelling by Jillian Flexner of Mozart’s La Traviata is a short, fifty-minute, zombie-filled zomp through love and violence. Director J. Deschene and Music Director Ian Garvie keep the production moving at a clip pace, but, ultimately, the production feels thin. With some well-timed blood splatters and fine vocals, the evening was a fine foray into the multi-faceted potential for the company, but a simplistic attempt. 

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BOC's Trimmed "Faust et Marguerite" Is a Treat To Cherish

BOC's Trimmed "Faust et Marguerite" Is a Treat To Cherish

Boston Opera Collaborative celebrates its 10th Anniversary Season, and they continue to innovate the Greater Boston opera community with its recent production of Charles Gounod’s Faust et Marguerite. Stripped to ninety minutes of intimate song, faith, and redemption, the Boston Opera Collaborative's Faust et Marguerite is an astonishing treat for modern audiences to experience the splendid music in a truly intimate atmosphere and storytelling. For those familiar with the Faust legend, you will find a brand-new story full of love and suspense, featuring some masterful work by soprano Emily Jensen as Marguerite. 

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"Albert Herring" is Accessible Opera for All

Boston Opera Collaborative expands its repertoire by performing Benjamin Britten’s rarely-performed three-act opera Albert Herring at Dorchester’s Strand Theatre as a part of the Free for All Concert Fund. Directed and orchestrated by 2013 My Theatre (Boston) Award-winning Stage Director Katherine Carter, and Music Director and Conductor Andrew Altenbach, the accessible production is a treat for all ages, expertly sung in English and also including English supertitles. With clever staging and gorgeous vocal flourishes, Albert Herring was a charming chap for an afternoon at the theatre.

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Who Needs D Major? "Don Giovanni"‘s Opera Buffa

Don Giovanni is one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s most famous operas, spurring countless productions and re-imaginings in modern culture. Boston University College of Fine Arts’ School of Music Opera Institute and School of Theatre presented their own clever twist, thanks to the inspiring direction of Stage Director Daniel Pelzig and Conductor William Lumpkin. While the production’s youthful vibrancy and modern translation might have been off-putting and unsettling for a more classically-trained and -accustomed audience, the Gen-X edginess kept the opera production from feeling stale and trite, instead alive as the omnipresent influence of Mozart’s legendary antihero.

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Fairy Tale Dreams Enjoyed in Newton Opera

On a Saturday night, I had the pleasure to see MetroWest Opera’s production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Why do I say that I had the pleasure? Because it was good. Like sickeningly sweet with gumdrops good. MetroWest Opera was founded in 2007, and it has produced at least one opera every year since then; I am disappointed that this show is my first exposure to the company. Hansel and Gretel marks their Newton debut, after being previously based in Weston. The First Baptist Church in Newton Center provided an ideal location for the growing company. First, the production was easily accessible via the Green D line from Boston, while also having plenty of parking behind the church or in a metered lot (I was unsure if you had to pay the meters on the weekends, but I did). Second, the church is gorgeous and, while the acoustics could use some fine-tuning—more on that later—the space provided ample room for audience seating and an expansive stage for the production. With sweet voices and delectable directing, this production stole my heart and satisfied my sweet tooth for opera.

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A Lady Never Kisses and Tells

Benjamin Britten’s Rape of Lucretia is a simple story of morality and virtue that is drawn out to epic proportions. While The Boston Conservatory performs each role with gusto, the opera seemed tired, expiring long before the final note. With such high quality at the school, I suspect the source material is to blame with its odd narrators, lengthy exposition, and lack of exciting dynamics between characters.

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The Opera That Should Remain Buried in History

Last week, the Lowell House Opera presented the rarely-performed (and perhaps it should stay that way) opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes, directed by Roxanna Myhrym and music directed by Lidiya Yankovskaya. The Lowell House Opera bills itself as the longest continually performing opera company in New England. The opera is rough around the edges, despite some noble efforts under strained circumstances. The opera, sung in French with English subtitles, is an odd duck; it mocks colonialism, especially the British, while espousing a high respect for culture and religious beliefs, even bordering on the pagan. It’s just not that interesting.

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Magic En El Amazonas

Florencia en el Amazonas is a relatively unknown opera; it’s modern, it’s Spanish, it’s artsy. However, the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Music Opera Institute and School of Theatre (wow, that’s a mouthful!) show that the production is reminiscent and in every way equal to the classics from which composer Daniel Catán and librettist Marcela Fuentes-Berain derive their opera, expertly conducted by William Lumpkin. Florenciais inspired by the famous Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, but the opera is itself a gorgeous vehicle of love which transcends its source material.

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But the "Brundibar" Seems Like So Much Fun!

Good theatre moves you in profound and unexpected ways. However, good theatre is also good storytelling. Like children gathered around on the carpet for story hour, we flock to the theatre to be entertained with characters and stories which exceed our own little world. These stories open our minds to new circumstances, new stories, and new ideas. The Central Square Theatre has pushed itself with artistic integrity and grit. Though quite mainstream, they are effective storytellers, offering a rich season of stories begging to be told. Their double-billing of But the Giraffe! and Brundibar is no exception. While not offering anything truly profound in terms of the performances or the technical, the stories are so heart-wrenching, poignant, and delightful that you can’t help but be swept up in the magic of the storytelling.

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An Operatic Affair . . . Without the Sexiness

So, I’ve quickly become a neophyte opera fan. I’m seeking out such productions all over Boston, and, in my quest, I found the New England Conservatory. Easily one of the most talented training schools in Boston, the Conservatory boasts a rich reputation for outstanding faculty and performers. I was mostly not disappointed when I tasted a sample of the school’s talent with its recent production of L’Incoronazione di Poppea.

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Boston Conservatory’s "The Magic Flute" Plays Perfect Melody

In the late eighteen century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart premiered his exhilarating and hilarious new opera, Die Zauberflöte, which continues to excite audiences today under its English name, The Magic Flute. When I taught kindergarten before law school, I taught a mini-lesson on opera, showcasing The Magic Flute. The look of delight as the children heard the soaring arias is a priceless gift of education for which everyone should experience. I experienced this similar joy and jubilation when I saw Boston Conservatory’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). Conducted by 2013 My Theatre Award Nominee and Boston Conservatory’s Music Director of Opera Studies Andrew Altenbach, the show is “a semi-staged concert production” with outstanding stage direction by Johnathon Pape, the Director of Opera Studies at Boston Conservatory. Frankly, re-reading this caveat in the program made me laugh because they did not “semi-stage” this gem, but produced a fully-realized production with enough spectacle and charm to wow its audience into a standing ovation and multiple bows.

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"La Cenerentola" Casts A Magical Spell of Delight

One of my goals for the new season is to broaden the scope of My Theatre’s Boston division. Therefore, I was delighted to attend Boston Opera Collaborative’s (“BOC”) La Cenerentola (“Cinderella”) by Gioachino Rossini. BOC delivers nothing better than a professional performance, for the viewing and listening pleasure of an audience of all ages. Performed at the historic Strand Theatre in Dorchester, BOC’s Cinderella was a pleasure, complete with superb singing, enjoyable acting, and exquisite musicianship and directing.

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