BGSU Opera Theater

Operatic double header bridges the centuries with laughter

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Comedy is timeless. The BGSU  Opera Theater’s double-bill of “How to Reform a Drunk” by Christoph Willibald Von Gluck from 1760 and “The Four Note Opera” by Tom Johnson from 1972  are as different in their approaches as you’d expect from works written 200 years apart. The reactions they provoke are the same – knowing chuckles and hearty guffaws. The operas will be performed tonight (Nov. 3) at 8 p.m. and Sunday (Nov. 5) at 3 p.m. in Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University campus. Tickets are $20 at the door, and cheaper if purchased in advance by calling 419-372-8171 or online. https://www.bgsu.edu/the-arts.htmlfrom The Gluck is a classic comic send-up. A vintner Lukas (Tyler Strayer) conspires to get the drunken father Zipperlein (Aaron Meece) to let him marry his daughter Marie (Hannah Stroh). She, however, is in love with the actor Anton (Aaron Hill). Her mother (Eunice Ayodele), the victim of her husband’s drunken behavior, is caught betwixt. As much as Katharine despises Lukas, “actors,” as she tells her daughter, “are the worst.” Still Anton gets into her good graces by concocting a plan to reform Zipperlein. That leads to a wonderfully fantastic scene with the husband believing he and Lucas have died and gone to hell where they will face punishment for their drunkenness. Before then they get to sing robustly of the joys of wine. The English translation and adaptation from the French by Ellen Scholl, of the BGSU faculty, presents the plot in a clear and wonderful way. And director Geoff Stephenson makes sure the show has a crisp pace leading to happy resolution.  We know these characters from watching musicals and situation comedies. Hearing them give voice to their dilemmas and hopes in light, floating music is a treat. The stage orchestra, conducted by music director Emily Freeman Brown, buttresses the singers and paints the scene, including the comic hell. The characters, such as they are, in Johnson’s opera find themselves trapped in another kind of hell – an opera without a plot and only four notes. What is lacking in those departments is made up for by the cast of characters with an overabundance of ego. These are operatic archetypes, and some of the slightest gestures, or even costume changes will have opera aficionados hooting. But Stephenson and the singers make sure the comedy is broad enough…


Broadway, blues & opera intersect in colorful “Street Scene” at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The brownstone at 346 on an anonymous street on New York’s Lower East Side is the home to seven families of motley ethnicity. “Street Scene,” the opera they inhabit, brings together music of the Old World and New to express their joys, hopes, passion, fears, and desperation. The 1946 collaboration of composer Kurt Weill, poet Langston Hughes, and playwright Elmer Rice opens Friday at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center for the Arts on the Bowling Green State University campus. A matinee performance will be presented Sunday at 3 p.m. Advance tickets are $15; all tickets are $20 the day of the performance. Call 419-372-8171, go online at bgsu.edu/arts, or visit the box office in the Wolfe Center to purchase tickets. “Street Scene,” said Kevin Bylsma, coordinator of opera at BGSU, “is a great amalgamation of operetta, opera and musical theater that tells a poignant story that resonates as much today as it did in 1946.” The tale of immigrants tossed together in a strange, sometimes hostile place had such resonance that guest director Nicholas Wuehrmann considered setting this version in contemporary times. There’s the “universality of the themes of love, relationships, the struggle of the immigrant population, prejudice, just every day life and the struggle to get along, and dreaming and hoping,” the director said. “It reminds me of the people I know in New York.” He passed on the idea, trusting the audience will relate regardless of the time period. All the characters have their own struggles, and the show highlights them in song. In the opening we hear the janitor (Brett Pond) and Anna Maurrant (Alicia Yantosca) sing of their dreams. His are expressed in a grinding blues number “I Got a Marble and a Star,” sung as residents ask him about repairs that need to be made. Anna expresses her desires in a passionate aria in which she declares that “I will always believe there will be a brighter day.” For her that “brighter day” may include the milkman Sam Sankey (Jarrod Davis) with whom she’s carrying on a not-so-secret affair. The neighbor ladies – Emma Jones (Hillary LaBonte), Greta Fiorentino (Elizabeth Vogel), and Olga Olsen (Betsy Bellavia) – gossip about it in the bouncing “Get a Load of That.” All the play’s drama plays out in front of the brownstone. While the setting roots the…


‘Gondoliers’ provides a comic & tuneful respite from dirty politics

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maybe “The Gondoliers” is just what we need about now. With a political campaign rolling like a torrent of sludge to a messy conclusion, a frothy piece of social satire from another time is a welcomed diversion. The venerable team of Gilbert and Sullivan reminds us that being a doofus is just part of the human condition. Doesn’t matter if you’re royalty or gondolier, you are at heart a fool. But in the world of Gilbert and Sullivan even fools can spin off a tangle of intricate rhyme that precisely delineates the absurd world they inhabit. “The Gondoliers or the King of Barataria” was the team’s last hit back in the last decade of the 19th century. And Bowling Green State University Opera Theatre whips up a production that is true to the absurdist spirit of the original. The show is on stage tonight (Nov. 4) at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. on Kobacker Hall on campus. Advance tickets are $15 and $5 for students and children. All tickets the day of the performance are $20. Tickets can be purchased from the BGSU Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171 or at www.bgsu.edu/arts. The tale is a subversive fancy, so convoluted and contrived that when the character Luiz (Aaron Hill) repeats the story to Princess Casilda (Alissa Plenzler) she’s just as incredulous as the audience, though not nearly as amused. Casilda is the daughter of down-and-out royalty who married her off as a baby to a prince. When the prince’s family became Methodists “of the most bigoted and persecuting type,” the baby prince is whisked away by the Grand Inquisitor (Brett Pond) to Venice where he was placed with the family of a gondolier who had a son the same age. The father drank so much he forgot which boy was which, so now no one knows, except that stock figure in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the nurse. The entire play takes place waiting for the nurse’s arrival in the scene to settle the matter. The prince’s father has died in a revolt, so now the prince, whichever gondolier he is, is the king of Barataria. Those gondeliers Marco (Mark Tenorio) and Guiseppe (Luke Serrano) are the heartthrobs of a gaggle of farm girls, who refuse to select beaus until the handsome gondoliers decide whom to wed. The lucky girls are Gianetta (Hannah Stroth) and Tessa (Amanda…


BGSU Opera Theater Gives Voice to Tragic Tale of Love

Seldom does an opera arrive on the stage at Bowling Green State University with such high expectations. “Cavalerria Rusticana,” which opens Friday at 8 p.m. with a matinee Sunday at 3 p.m. in Donnell Theatre, features native son Shawn Mathey who has already made his mark on international stages. And opposite his Turiddu as Santuzza is Jennifer Cresswell, who also has impressive professional stage credits, perfectly cast as the woman scorned. The leads deliver, not just through voices that have the Donnell vibrating with their passion, but also through their acting, which brings their characters to life. It’s worth looking over at Cresswell during the scene in which her heart-to-heart talk with Turiddu is interrupted by Lola (Kyle Schreiber). Mathey’s character immediately abandons Santuzza as he dotes on the woman he had hoped to marry. Without a word, Cresswell expresses disdain both for her rival and her lover as well as self-pity for herself. Santuzza had slept with Turiddu when he arrived back in his village to find Lola had married the teamster Alfio (John Mink). That dalliance had its desired effect, making Lola jealous, and she and Turiddu reunited. Tragedy ensues, all played out in full-throated singing. Director Jesse Koza is able to place this sordid tale within the context of the village, albeit a village populated solely with young, good looking people. Central to village life is the trattoria run by Turiddu’s mother Lucia (Betsy Bellavia). With a few spare strokes, Koza sketches the sense of a community at once earthy and devout. The play takes place at Easter, which sets the characters’ sins in stark relief. Santuzza, though, seems to be the only one who takes her sin to heart, and she stays outside the church, feeling herself unworthy, as the others enter. She is on the outs both with the village and with heaven. This setting also gives composer Pietro Mascagni the chance to write some stately and very lovely religious music that contrasts with the songs of revelry and passion. Mathey’s Turiddu is too besotted with his love for Lola to notice his own sin. Even as he fawns over Lola, his scenes with Santuzza reveal the lure of his lust for her. The singing is supported by an orchestra, conducted by Emily Freeman Brown. The sound of the ensemble is rich with lower winds. The score has several passages where the orchestra comes to…