Music and art take over ArtsWalk
By John Paul Keeler
for Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
One of the outstanding events during ArtsWalk week was the performance at the Hudson Opera House on Sept 28  of a song cycle titled “I Remember.” It is based on the diaries of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager heroine of the last days of World War II. She and her family were the last to leave Holland by train to the concentration camp
This writer went back and reread the diary before attending the performance and the impact after more than 40 years is so sad and still riveting.
The song cycle composed by Michael Cohen is written for mezzo soprano, flute, harp and cello. the libretto by Enid Futterman, fashioned after the 268 page diary, is outstanding. Futterman captures perfectly the essence, the persona, the searching and the hope of Anne Frank.
Michael Cohen’s music is so beautiful and, in its way, wraps the text with the haunting poetry of the three accompanying instruments. The cello brings the sad emotions forward, the harp in upward arpeggios seems to point out the way for Frank’s escape to eternity and the flute anchors suffering humanity.
Nina Fine is a lyric mezzo soprano to recon with. Her lovely sound and beautiful expressivity, as well as perfect diction, completed the ideal picture of Frank.
Earlier the same day at the Opera House, Edward Barnes’ children’s opera, “The Vagabond Queen,” delighted both children and adults.
The work has the soprano singing all the parts, the Queen, King, Vagabond, as well as the bad King. Soprano Amanda Boyd sang all parts with wonderful verve, acting out each role in a kind of pantomime that really worked. She colored her voice cleverly, brining a magical effect to her audience…..(review of other events continues)
Feel the sawdust in intimate ‘Barroom’
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
First published: Saturday, May 27, 2006
HUDSON — Who’d have thought that a Wild West saloon could be such an ideal setting for opera? But in Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor,” a clattering piano provides musical accompaniment, and an abundance of liquor helps boost the emotional drama to the necessary proportions. Romance and murder happen in nearly record time.
In the second production of the newly established Hudson Chamber Opera, Mollicone’s one-act proves to be a potent shot delivered by a company of professional caliber. As Hudson’s cultural capital grows, it seems ready for intelligent but accessible musical dramas such as this. Friday night’s opening drew a capacity crowd to the charming but disheveled Basilica Industria in Hudson. Performances continue Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
“The Face” refers to a fading portrait of a beautiful woman thatgraces the floor of a tavern in Colorado’s Central City. That city’s opera company actually revives the piece every summer.
The opera itself begins when a couple of tourists, played by soprano Nancy Allen Lundy and tenor Dean Anthony, stumble into the old drinking establishment, get into their cups and start asking about the painting. The bartender, baritone Mark Gargiulo, proceeds to spin for them his familiar yarn of a penniless painter, a dance hall girl, and a barkeeper, and their love triangle gone bad. Soon the opera jumps back in time and the cast of three become their forebears.
The score is rich in melody and includes references to both Puccini and “Home on the Range.”
It reaches its apex in a finely crafted trio that is also nicely staged. The focus is on the artist as he works on the portrait. His concentration and refined skills with a brush are a startling sight in the rustic pioneer setting. The opera ends with a jump back into present time when love, jealousy and death repeat themselves. Is there any other opera in which the soprano gets two death scenes?
When the male leads go at it a second time, their unleash a ferocious anger that’s channeled purely through the score. It’s as up close and powerful as opera can get. But more often than not, the music felt too loud for the space — not unlike an evening in a real bar perhaps.
Pianist and music director Uel Wade provided a lively and supple accompaniment with support from flute and cello. As in last fall’s production of “The Medium,” Dean Anthony directed as well as performed.
Joseph Dalton is a local freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Union. Opera review: Hudson Chamber Opera presents Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor” When: 8 p.m. Friday Where: Basilica Industria, 110 S. Front St., Hudson Duration: One hour The crowd: About 2,000 people, all ages, attentive and overly eager to applaud Continues: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
A ‘Medium’ with flair in Hudson
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
First published: Monday, October 10, 2005
HUDSON — A leaking roof and a flooded backstage area didn’t keep the new Hudson Chamber Opera from presenting its first production, which was part of the second weekend of Hudson’s annual Artswalk.
Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium” was given a staging full of character and flair in the Basilica Industria, an old manufacturing space that’s on its way to becoming a new arts center. Local soprano Mary Hack owned the title role. Dominating the stage, she played the Medium as a temperamental woman of a certain age whom you’d rather not cross. When something from the spirit world possibly makes contact with the medium — who otherwise stages sham seances — she shuns her loyal clients and lashes out at her two underlings. Though anger, born of fear, dominates the role, Hack’s best singing came in the few quieter moments. Rage too often won out over beauty, though nothing was ever out of control. Even Hack’s spoken lines were modulated and she was ultimately mesmerizing.
Soprano Megan Weston was also excellent in the principal supporting role of Monica. Her singing was attractive, as well as intelligible in the midrange. A duet between Hack and Weston sounded like a juicy hymn.
A silent presence on stage but a big player in the production was Dean Anthony. He played the mute savant Toby and also directed the opera and collaborated on the sets and lighting. Anthony was a sympathetic and agile actor and his direction was as economical yet effective as Menotti’s score. Pianist and music director Michael Clement was also a solid presence.
There was chipped paint and the aura of dust on the set’s walls, windows, statues and modest furnishings. It was an appropriate domicile for a reclusive fortuneteller and also a nice match to the makeshift theater, which itself was rather spooky and drafty. Let’s hope Hudson Chamber Opera, a phoenix that has risen from the ashes of the defunct Columbia Festival Orchestra, can continue to offer sturdy English language music dramas in productions as engaging as this. Hardworking conductor Gwen Gould is co-artistic director of the new outfit, along with Hack.
Next up, in May, is a double bill of Henry Mollicone’s wild west opera “The Face on the Barroom Floor” and Lucas Foss’s “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Joseph Dalton is a local freelance writer who contributes regularly to theTimes Union.
OPERA REVIEWHUDSON CHAMBER OPERA PRESENTS What: Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium”When: 8 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Bascilia Industria, 110 S. Front St., HudsonDuration: 1 hourThe crowd: A full house of about 125 enthusiastic locals.
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