Autumn in New Haven

I come alive in Autumn.  The light, the slight chill, the colors, the smells the chock-a-block arts calendar!

I had a birthday in October, and my friend Doug took me to Hartford to see Seder at Hartford Stage.  It was superb, and there will be more about that later.

Jane Alexander and Judith Ivey gave us all a lesson in stagecraft at the Long Wharf in a new play called Fireflies.  Stay tuned for more on that as well.

YALE OPERA brought forth its Fall Opera Scenes,  on November 3rd and 4th at Sprague Hall…

which gave us an opportunity to see how the second year students have grown, and to also get our score cards out as we meet a whole new group of students in their first year of the Master’s Program.

But first, an apology.

We had tickets to the Long Wharf on Friday night, and since I have not yet figured out how to clone myself so I can devour two great shows at once, I missed the Friday night’s offering.  Mea Culpa.  I am sincerely hoping I  get the opportunity to see a video of  Friday night’s performance, and when I do I shall report back.

The moment we walked into Sprague Hall for the Saturday night show, I was aware of a palpable buzz as people were gushing about the Friday night performance.

When Doris Yarick Cross, Artistic Director of Yale Opera greeted the audience on stage, she asked the audience how they liked Friday evening’s performance of a scene from the opera Dead Man Walking.  The audience cheered. I knew we had missed something special. (Happily, Fireflies at the Long Wharf was particularly wonderful, and, as promised, I shall write more about that later.)

Saturday’s show began with Alexandra Urquiola (who was superb in last year’s The Bear, and who I would like to see more) and Sylvia D’Eramo, who possesses a gorgeous, big voice (in a very petite body)  played Hansel and Gretel, respectively, and Sarah Saturnino and Zachary Johnson playing Mother and Father.  All four singers returned for their second year of the Master’s Program, except for Zachary.  Zach received his Master’s last year, but happily, has returned for another year of performing so we are the lucky recipients of that decision.

Beautiful voices and delightful acting from all four, thank you very much. Sarah Saturnino, as mother,  grabbing a Xanax from her handbag drew appropriate laughter from the audience, and the spilled milk was cleverly portrayed by a an exploding Lego-like bottle.  As usual, Sprague Hall was used to its maximum with terrific projections, which help to transform the box-like stage of a concert hall into theatre.

Lucrezia Borgia, by Donizetti helped to continue the political angst many of us are experiencing regarding an opportunistic political family with an insatiable urge for power.

Newcomer, Lauren McQuistin from Scotland has a big voice, and gave us a Lucrezia who is filled with passion and ice.  She was focused, and evil and fun as hell to listen to.  I am looking forward to seeing what she will give us in the years ahead. But I felt rather sorry for her on Saturday evening,  as her appropriately red dress was just too big for her.  You don’t put an actor in a dark red dress if you don’t want us to notice her. But the poor darling had to keep her hands close to her body so her dress would not move around too much.  I realize that when you are young, you don’t always know you can ask for things like better alterations. Someone should have picked up on that, and taken it in or found another red dress that would fit her better.

Stephen Clark played Don Alfonso beautifully, as always, and the stage was filled with newcomers  Ricky Feng Nan, and Fidel Angel Romero, are two new tenors to the company. Baritone Andres Benavides Cascante, and Brady Muth, a lovely new bass-baritone did beautifully, and new mezzo-soprano, Rachel Weishoff was terrific as Orsini.

Zachary Johnson gave us a wonderful Don Giovanni, and Brady Muth was a delicious Leporello. Anush Avetisyan is back for her second year. As I have mentioned previously, she is always a joy to watch and hear. She is a truly top notch performer. Stephen Clark, Ricky Feng Nan and Sylvia D’Eramo filled out the rest of the scene as the Commendatore, Don Ottavio and Donna Anna very beautifully.

Ariadne auf Naxos finished the evening, with almost the entire first act of the opera.

I LOVE this opera. I love Richard Strauss.

Sarah Saturnino was glorious as the Composer.  (Sarah played Sister Prejean the previous evening in Dead Man Walking.) Sarah has it all.  She is smart, a wonderful actor, and her mezzo is warm, dramatic, and powerfully emotive. Matthew Cossack, with whom Sarah shared a scene in Dead Man Walking the previous evening was hilarious as the  Musiklehrer.  Lauren McQuistin as the Prima Donna, and another new comer, Leah Bryski was lovely as Zerbinetta. Ms. Bryski will play the Queen of the Night in Yale Opera’s Die Zauberflote which will play at the Schubert in February. Bryan Murray, Fidel Angel Romero, Luis Aguilar Regalado and Stephen Clark rounded out the rest of the cast.

I have a special love for this company.  As I have mentioned in previous writings, I often have the privilege of singing with some of these singers in choirs in the Yale community.

I had coffee with Sarah Saturnino recently, and it is a great thing to meet a young performer at the time in their artistic life when they are finding themselves, and sorting out what they want from this crazy career that they have chosen. It is exciting and scary, and new and wonderful and who KNOWS where this will lead them.

Opera departments can be viper’s pits. Many conservatories and music schools are known for the backbiting, backstabbing, backstage battles that make the operas they perform look like Christmas Pantomimes for the little ones.  But it is clear to see that Yale does not allow that to happen. Either that, or they just know how to pick students for the program that they know will offer support to the other artists with whom they must work, and compete. This company is made up of students from all over the world, who arrive in the program ready to take on the roles and do Yale proud.  We get to see them at the end of their formal SCHOOL studies, and at the beginning of their professional lives. They have passion and compassion, and it is a wonderful thing to see.  I urge you to support these emerging artists.


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