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Bella Voce!

I attended a performance at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul Oct. 12. The concert featured Bella Voce under the direction of Dr. Dawn Willis, whose influence has certainly shaped this group of women into an amazing musical organization that has, in five years since their first concert, carried the name of Vermont to festivals outside the state and to Ireland most recently. The concert was made up of favorite pieces in several genres, and concluded with a performance of part of the text from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's A Gift from the Sea set by Vermont composer Gwyneth Walker was present. Narration for this piece was read by Reeve Lindbergh, the writer's daughter. Performance standards were high, and the audience responded appropriately to everything they heard. Vermont Stage Company On Oct. 15, Vermont Stage Company opened up production of Well by Lisa Kron directed by Jim Gaylord. It seems to be a play that grew out of a monologue, because some interjections by other characters seem to replace monologue with vignettes of brief moments in Lisa's life (we are to remember all the way through that this is not a play about Lisa and her mother Ann, but only a discussion of why some people can cure themselves and others cannot). Although this character was on stage even before Lisa came on, she was seated so low that I, sitting in the fourth row on Ann's left-hand side, only caught passing glimpses of her throughout the play when she stood up. Dale Soules did a remarkably wonderful job as Ann, followed in close second by Chris Caswell, who played a variety of parts with real incisiveness and conviction. The other three members of the ensemble Edgar L. Davis, Winnie Looby and Jason P. Lorber, did their parts well. Lisa Barnes was Lisa in the play, and she had quite a bit to do to carry the weight of the play. Something was slightly off on Wednesday part of it was a somewhat unresponsive audience. Whatever the cause, the play didn't register as well as it should. Perhaps a few performances under the belt will help. It's worth going to see -- just listen carefully and laugh when you feel it's necessary, and it may be necessary often. The Lane Series The Lane Series presented Bizets Carmen on the Flynn mainstage. The production was by Teatro Lirico dEuropa. There was a lively crowd including young people, and they were attentive and appreciative throughout the evening of the production. The production had a multinational cast. Russian mezzo Galia Ibragimova was Carmen not soon forgotten, especially for the crystalline clarity of her mezzo voice. She's a delight to listen to and easy on the eye, although she should learn to use castanets. She deserved the numerous encores series. American baritone James Bobick was an outstanding Escamillo, singing the part with real staying power and the great deal of subtlety (he should have had a suit of lights that fit him properly). As sung by Romanian tenor Viorel Saplacin, Don Jos頢ecame a very violent man who's killing of Carmen is motivated by the fact that she thinks he's a weakling. He acted well, but his voice needs serious looking after. The only truly well sung notes came at the highest point of the range of the part, where his voice broke through his lower register sounds. German soprano Christin Molnar received a great deal of applause for her depiction of Micaela. The comprimario parts were well sung indeed (the quintet, the card trio), but the chorus needed a great deal more rehearsal, as did the orchestra, which seemed to tire near the end. Conductor and Music Director Krassimir Topolov had his hands full keeping the chorus and orchestra together. The applause went on and on at the end of the performance. Next year's production in the fall will be Mozart's Don Giovanni. Palace Cinema 9 The Metropolitan Opera in H.D. series for the 2008-09 definitely began with a bang: a production of Strausss Salome, starring Karita Mattila in the title role and ably assisted all the way down to the smallest part by a cast of extraordinarily gifted singers and actors, especially Joch Uusitalo as John the Baptist. The production was also the most lascivious enactment of Salome that I have seen, and I have seen at least five other productions in the last 55 years. Mattila portrayed a restless and bored Salom頷ho was only too eager to become fixated on the prophet Jokanaan . Her interpretation of the role was totally justified, especially since the original play was written by Oscar Wilde, and first given in Paris in French. The libretto for the opera was based directly on a German translation of that play, which reflects the aesthetic of The Yellow Book (not the phone book!) and the work of such writers/artists as Aubrey Beardsley. In addition to her superb acting, Mattila sang incredibly well, handling her voice in a manner that permitted her to project every single note. She had a ready opponent in the Jokanaan of Uusitalo, who sang the part with genuine religious fervor and then evenness of vocal production that was masterful. His voice was gloriously legato, and yet it could be filled and colored any way that he wanted to do color it. He was a worthy opponent for this Salome. The balance of the cast whose names I do not know were well above average in a singing hand their acting, especially the tenor who sang the part of the captain of the guard. Thanks should be given to Harold Blank, manager of the complex, for providing Burlington opera lovers such a wonderful place to hear a Met H.D. broadcast. There are ten more productions and the encore productions to come, beginning with the premiere at the Met of Doctor Atomic by John Adam, an opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the race to build the atomic bomb.

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