Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Glimmerglass Part II

by Megan Meister

The opera house at Glimmerglass.

Yesterday morning before the apprentice auditions I was able to make a quick stop at the Fenimore Art Museum, renowned home of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art (a part of which was recently shown at the Dallas Museum of Art) for a special opera exhibition.  Featuring costumes and original design sketches on loan from the Metropolitan Opera archives, there were pieces from ARMIDE (operas based on the same libretto as the version done here, but by Gluck and Rossini, not Lully) and AIDA.  It was a small exhibition, but quite interesting for opera lovers visiting Cooperstown.

I was to hear 26 apprentice singers yesterday, but 3 of them cancelled.  It is the final weekend of the festival, and I am sure that they are all exhausted since many of them are in all four productions.  I will hear another group of apprentices this afternoon before the matinee, so perhaps one or two of the singers who had to cancel yesterday will rally for today.

Perhaps I am prejudiced, but several of the singers who really impressed me yesterday have Dallas connections.

Mezzo Catherine Martin (who attended UNT), and baritones Norman Garrett and Thomas Cannon (who was a Dallas Opera Emerging Artist and sang in our most recent production of MADAME BUTTERFLY), all have been finalists in the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, and all stood out in yesterday’s auditions.

Two other mezzos made strong impressions, Brandy Hawkins and Chrystal Williams (another product of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, which produced several of the best apprentices I heard recently in Santa Fe) but perhaps the most promising singer was a 20 year old Mozart tenor from South Africa named Makudupanyane Senaoana.  He seemed to sing the aria “Ich baue ganz” from THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO in one breath.

Yesterday afternoon following the audition was an hour long recital in the theatre given by tenor Noah Stewart, who is here this summer to sing “Radames” in AIDA.  He was plugging the release of a new CD that has already risen to number one on the classical chart in Great Britain and has just come out in the States.    It was a “crossover” program taken mostly from what is on the recording, and he was exquisitely and sensitively accompanied by Michael Heaston, who is head of the music staff at Glimmerglass, and who has been the head of the music staff in Dallas for many years.

Last night’s performance was an enchanting production of Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN, starring Dwayne Croft and Elizabeth Futral, both of whom have sung with The Dallas Opera.  Part of the Glimmerglass mission statement under Francesca Zambello is dedicated to performing one classic American musical every season unamplified and with the original orchestrations.  Having singers the calibre of Dwayne and Elizabeth guarantee that these shows will be well sung but the joyous surprise is how adept these two are with the dialogue since speaking on stage seems to be such a challenge to most opera singers.

Utterly natural in their delivery, they looked and sounded great.

This production was slightly updated from 1912 to circa 1940 for no apparent reason other than to allow Elizabeth to look smashing in trousers and Dwayne to look snazzy in a “zootsuit.”

Energetically staged by Tony nominated director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge and authoritatively conducted by John DeMain, it was a wonderful evening of old-fashioned musical theatre.

Needless to add, the audience went wild at the end clapping rhythmically at the curtain call while the orchestra reprised “Seventy-six Trombones.”

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