Bwog just wants to be an opera star

Bwog just wants to be an opera star

CUPAL Presents: Opera Untapped was this past Thursday and Friday night in the Lerner Black Box. Our world-famous opera connoisseur and critic, Alexandra Svokos, was in the audience. Experience the enchantment!

If you happen to know me at all, you know I want nothing more than a world in which everyone is a loud and proud opera fan. Thanks to Martina Weidenbaum, BC’13, and the cast and crew of the wonderful Opera Untapped, we’re another step closer to my ideal. The production, six scenes from a range of operas, had only a piano for accompaniment along with minimal set and costumery, and instead relied on the infectious dedication of the performers and directors.

The night opened with the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Christopher Browner, CC’16. The titular role was sung by Devon Mehring, CC/BCJ’14 (that’s Columbia-Barnard-Juilliard), with a strong and wonderfully textured voice fitting for the seductive Carmen. The scene was presented with chorus, and Mehring’s “l’amour“s projected carefully and hauntingly over them.

We then jumped back in time to Mozart’s Magic Flute, directed by Lisa Campbell, BC’13. Here we saw the Act II quartet with the three spirits and Pamina. The harmonies between the spirits–Emily Buttner, CC’13, Hannah Gorman, CC’16, and Esther Adams, BC’16–were even and pretty, with emphasis in the high lines from Buttner. Kyle McCormick, CC’14, sung Pamina with passion.

Isabella Livorni, BC’16, did a more reeled in interpretation of Verdi’s Rigoletto than has been seen lately. The Act III quartet where the Duke seduces Maddalena as Gilda and her father, Rigoletto, look on in horror, is a fun one to stage. Livorni was able to very effectively portray Gilda as the naively delusional young girl in this one scene. Omar El-Okdah, SIPA’12, showed his booming baritone voice as Mehring returned with force. Anna Dugan, CC/BCJ’14, sang a wide-eyed Gilda with a voice a hundred times stronger than her character. Both girls really stole the scene with highly controlled and well-tuned voices to match their convincing acting.

From that tragedy we moved on to a playful scene directed by Campbell from Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict. Piper Rasmussen, BC’16, enjoyed having a laugh at Beatrice’s expense, and the audience had fun with her. Sophie Lewis, BC’15, was just slightly more sympathetic, but played along with strong, consistent singing. As Beatrice, Angela Scorese, BC’16, was sweet, though her lower range at times slipped into musical singing rather than operatic.

The Act II sextet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, as Leporello is found, disguised as Giovanni, only to reveal his true identity, was a joy to watch and full of impressive voices. Joshua Arky, CC’13, was a notable Leporello with a clear bass voice. McCormick was a lovely and pleading Donna Elvira. Also memorable were Benjamin Gonzalez-Bierman, GS’14, as an achey Don Ottavio, and Christine Rosenblatt, BC’16, whose loud Donna Anna threatened to drown out the rest of the singers–a voice that, while great to hear, should have been quieted for the harmonies.

The night concluded on a happy note with a love duet from the end of Lehar’s The Merry Widow. Shelley Farmer, BC’14, showed her directorial skill with Candide last fall, and proved her worth again here. Farmer knows how to present a scene–as I put it in my notes, girl knows what’s up. Before the music started, we watched the crowded party conspiratorially dissipate to allow Hanna and Count Danilo privacy. Dugan and Isaac Assor, CC’14, had a few lines of recitative before breaking into song.  It was a triumphant ending to an enjoyable night.  Both Dugan and Assor have beautifully colorful and rich voices. They melded finely together and painted an enchanting scene to end an enchanting evening.

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