New Orleans Opera Association’s production of Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville.’
by Andrew Adler, The Times-Picayune, November 17, 2012
Can you say ‘Figaro’? New Orleans Opera Association opens its subscription season with ‘The Barber of Seville’… Gala performances are all well and fine, but the true measure of an opera company lies in how it chooses, casts and produces the core repertory of a season. So with its Placido Domingo gala safely and successfully behind it, the New Orleans Opera Association turned to Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” as the first of three works to be presented between now and the close of the subscription schedule in April.
Few works have been so closely linked to this company. Association archivist Jack Belsom writes in a program note that “The Barber of Seville” had been performed “on 25 evenings” before emerging yet again Friday, Nov. 16, night at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Indeed, Belsom observed, “by the end of the 19th century it had been staged in New Orleans, in French, Italian or English, some 150 times.”
Whether you call that kind of popularity wonderfully affirming or un-wonderfully ubiquitous depends, I guess, on your perspective as opera-goer. I must confess that I’ve seen and heard enough productions of “Barber” to keep me pretty much sated for whatever years I have left. Still, given as strong an effort as the New Orleans Opera is currently mounting, I’ll save any grumbling for another occasion. If you’re going to present something as centrist as this Rossini opera, you’d better be ready to deliver.
Friday’s performance delivered abundantly, reflecting the care and feeding of a cast expert at rendering the composer’s buffa style as something greater than a montage of slapstick-like sequences. Matthew Latta’s staging accomplished just that, offering airiness and dynamism to encourage an audience to parse its various elements with fresh eyes and ears. He respected and acknowledged tradition, while never being reluctant to challenge empty convention.
The most obvious example came when Michael Worth’s brash, athletic, and keenly musical Figaro tossed off “Largo al factotum” while scooting down one of the Mahalia Jackson’s center aisles – picking his way among presumably startled patrons before bounding up to the stage. Beyond this, however, Latta injected compelling physicality into specific scenes that can often seem moribund. He had veteran bass Samuel Ramey’s wily Don Basilio sing from atop a (mock) harpsichord, arms outstretched as though belting out a sizzling number at a Vegas lounge act.
Deborah Domanski’s Rosina deftly negotiated various trips up and down staircases, and Thomas Hammons’ Doctor Bartolo — time after time the heart of this opera – was a veritable whirling dervish of haughty befuddlement. A great deal of activity, to be sure. But tellingly, a great deal of sense and logic.
Aspects of this approach tied in with the transparency and articulation that define Rossini’s comic musical methodology. Friday’s singers understood the notion of the idiomatic Rossini phrase, a way of precisely modulating vocal attack and decorative accent to bolster the identities of their respective characters. “The Barber of Seville” has been given to all manner of selective transpositions and interpolations, with a history of star singers choosing to emphasize themselves rather than the score. That can be fun. But it can also be distracting.
Happily, Friday’s cast managed to avoid most potential stumbling points. Even when there were unavoidable compromises – particularly tenor Michele Angelini — who sang Count Almaviva while shaking off the effects of illness earlier in the week -– the results were laudably authentic and intuitive.
As a mezzo, Domanski made her Rosina vocally flexible and lustrous in a way that confirmed how this role can suit singers of differing tonal perspectives. “Una voce poca fa,” Rosina’s early act-one cavatina, did not devolve into mannerism; it was a confession of deep and mysterious longing. Elsewhere, Domanski -– because she never gave too much too soon – could fool a listener into believing her voice was fundamentally modest in scale. Then, in a rush of thrilling crescendo, she would reveal a ringing and securely supported top. That’s what we call skill, and just as important, taste.
Ramey, for decades one of the most distinguished basses anywhere, was wickedly pleasurable regaling the splendors of slander amid “La calunnia e un venticello.” When the slanderous breeze became a storm, his voice gained appropriate proportion and sumptuous roundness.
Though it was evident that Angelini was conserving his vocal resources, he mustered the necessary creaminess and dynamic urgency to Almaviva, both in solo and ensemble. No quibbles, however, about Hammons’ Bartolo. It was a masterly, encompassing interpretation.
So was Worth’s Figaro, the barber who whips up a splendid solution to whatever problem presents itself. His singing was full of verve and intelligence; his sense of theatricality almost always unerring. Regardless of the mayhem surrounding him, this Figaro remained in absolute, delectable control of comic circumstance.
Among supporting roles, Lenora Green was a pert, vivacious Berta. Members of the New Orleans Opera Chorus sang heartily and occupied the stage with assurance. Words matter, and they made certain that diction was precise, not approximate.
Robert Lyall, the company’s general and artistic director, conducted members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with an emphasis on tautness and elegance of line. Not every moment was pristine, but the fundamental worthiness of his account – and the advocacy of his singers – was consistently apparent.
by D. S. Crafts for The Albuquerque Journal
Undoubtedly due to our association of the Messiah oratorio with Christmas, baroque music in general always seems appropriate to the season.
On Thursday night, the eve of the Winter Solstice, Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble opened its run of hour-long concerts entitled “A Baroque Christmas.” Guest mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski alternates with soprano Liesl Odenweller.
Held at the Loretto Chapel, adorned for Christmas with poinsettias and blood-red ribbons garnishing evergreen roping, this concert is performed on baroque period instruments. Though the evening is only a bit more than an hour in length, it is well worth the drive up to Santa Fe.
The program opens with instrumental excerpts from Henry Purcell’s semi-opera The Fairy Queen, an adaptation of Shake-speare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The music instantly sets the festive mood, each a sparkling piece of musical invention, including two jolly Hornpipes (Sailors’ Dance)–a popular form in sea-faring Britain–and a spritely back and forth play between winds and strings in the “Dance for the Fairies.”
Vivaldi’s motet, Nulla in mundo pax sincera (There is no peace without sorrow) is a dramatic work designed for vocal display, and though not a Christmas piece per se, it does have that feel about it. I have a recording of the work by the great British soprano Emma Kirkby, but Santa Fe’s Deborah Domanski sang it with more color and more engaging expression. Two arias are separated by a recitative that blooms with sensitive embellishment. One can revel in the serpent’s hiss in the second aria “Spirat anguis inter.” The Alleluia was a thrilling display of fioratura ornamentation not only immaculate in execution but charged with brilliant emotion. Overall, a performance that will remain in the memory of those present. It is no wonder Deborah leaves for an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera next month. We wish her the best.
When one thinks of Christmas music, it is generally vocal music which first comes to mind. Yet during the Baroque period, when instrumental music began to come into its own, many composers wrote concertos or sinfonias specifically designed for Christmas use. Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G Minor is by the far the most often played. Concertmaster Stephen Redfield immediately sets the tone with an exhilarating clip. After several more fast-paced movements, the work ends with a graceful Pastorale. The ensemble gives the music a fresh gleam that shines throughout.
The final set brings Domanski back to the stage for popular carols from a variety of countries. Sentiment ranges from the humorous Tyrolian carol about two bumpkin shepherds, to the reverently beautiful Russian “In a Manger.” But finally Domanski takes on yet another piece of bravura singing in Handel’s “O had I Jubal’s lyre,” resulting Thursday night in deservedly boisterous applause.
This concert repeats nightly at 6 and 8pm through December 24th at the Loretto Chapel. Deborah Domanski alternates with soprano Liesl Odenweller
Jacobi, musicians stir ‘Tempest’
By D.S. Crafts / For The Albuquerque Journal on Fri, Jun 24, 2011
From Claudius to Cadfael to Hamlet and now Prospero, Sir Derek Jacobi has long been one of the world’s great actors. This past weekend he and his partner Richard Clifford brought to the Lensic Performing Arts Center staged excerpts of what may have been Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest. The afternoon more than fulfilled expectations.
Jacobi, like a host of other significant actors and writers (and humbly yours truly), has examined the plays and examined the life of the man from Stratford and concluded this marriage makes no sense. “Shake-speare” as it was originally hyphenated (the shaker of spears), was a pseudonym, a very common literary device especially in the Renaissance. Jacobi has been particularly outspoken on the subject, asserting that when looked at dispassionately, Edward deVere would appear the only logical candidate for authorship. “It just seems so obvious to me,” Jacobi told me. “I want to see the right man finally get credit.” The traditional Shakespeare biography is based almost entirely on speculation which when investigated critically falls to shreds.
The authorship controversy relates especially to The Tempest as the play was traditionally dated after deVere’s death. Current research, however, has shown that to be false. If not Shake-speare’s final word, The Tempest was certainly a late play, and though it has its dark moments is far less bleak than Timon, or King Lear. There is still a sense that justice may, if at length, eventually prevail in the world.
Jacobi gave Prospero a more commanding demeanor than I had imagined. “Our revels now are ended,” for example, became a vigorous enjoinment, more vehement than I have ever heard it. He was employing, of course, a full stage voice as opposed to the more conversational decibel level at which we are used to hearing him in films. He projected qualities of both magic and realism, neither subsuming the other. He also did a bit of faux-singing as Stephano, the drunken would-be king. Complementing Jacobi were Richard Clifford and Irish actress Acushla Bastible[cq] each masterfully assuming multiple roles.
The presentation Sunday afternoon was evenly divided between dramatic recitation and music provided by the unfailingly excellent Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble, here at full strength. With the exception of Handel, the music was drawn from the mid Baroque period reflecting the 1674 “operatic” staging of the work in London.
Gracing the ensemble was Santa Fe’s Deborah Domanski, a voice I have long considered Metropolitan Opera quality. Looking as voluptuous as her singing, she lent her gorgeous mezzo to a variety of songs and ultimately two exquisite Handel arias–the sensuously legato lines of an aria from Radamisto, followed by the coloratura fireworks of “Furibondo spira” from Partenope, which brought enthusiastic applause even from the actors. Domanski came within a hair’s breath of stealing the show. Her stage presence easily equaled that of Jacobi’s. (Why isn’t this woman singing on world-class opera stages?)
Domanski also sang several duets with David Farwig who lent his smooth, colorful baritone to solo songs including the famous lyric “Full Fathom Five” in a setting here by John Banister.
An adaptation featuring dramatic readings by the celebrated actors
TEMPEST features music inspired by Shakespeare’s play performed by the Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble.
The Ensemble will be joined by soloists Deborah Domanski, mezzo-soprano and David Farwig, baritone, performing compositions by Mathew Locke, John Bannister, Handel and others. The Ensemble will be led by Thomas O’Connor, music director of Santa Fe Pro Musica.
This theatrical concert event will include the settings of Shakespeare’s text from the 1674 “operatic” staging ofThe Tempest, as well as settings of “Full Fathom Five,” “Come Unto These Yellow Sands,” and “Where the Bee Sucks.”
TEMPEST was adapted by Mr. Clifford in June 2010 for the Folger Consort, the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.
|June 18 7:30 pm $20-$50*||June 19
4 pm $20-$50*
Santa Fe, NM 87501
TICKETS: (505) 988-1234
ADMINISTRATION: (505) 988-7050
The Lensic is a nonprofit, member-supported organization.
Last night’s opening of The Austin Lyric Opera’s production of The Star (aka Chabrier’s “L’Etoile”) was lauded by a standing ovation with enthusiastic hoots and hollers, a sure sign they had as much fun in the audience as we all did on stage!
The invited open dress rehearsal on Thursday night was also a success with 2,000+ school kids in the audience, hanging on every note. And for my heroic 3rd Act entrance, I received a Fonzarelli-like greeting… I was thrilled to hear they were happy to see me again!
Everyone in this cast and behind the scenes is first-class and a joy to work with! You’ve got to see it to believe it!
It’s a toe tapping, head-bopping good time…
Y’all come down now, ya hear!
Here are the details:
Austin Lyric Opera
January 30, February 3, 5 and 7, 2010
The Long Center for the Performing Arts
701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704
Box Office: 512-472-5992
Sung in French and dialogue in English, with English Supertitles
For more information, check out the digital program here.
What do you get when you cross the Marx Brothers with Gilbert and Sullivan? Very likely, The Star. The zany plot and inspired staging combine with a colorful and often ingenious score to deliver opera at its most entertaining. This romp of a show brings together a poor peddler, a near-psychopath of a king, a lovely princess, and an astrologer, in a wildly plotted story that is as irresistible as it is improbable.
Emmanuel Chabrier’s The Star is a musical sparkler of an operetta. Its light, diverting tunes and witty, bantering dialogue represent the very essence of “opéra bouffe,” a mid-19th-century genre created by Offenbach that was meant to entertain. The use of parody, satire, and outrageous slapstick, with its finely-spun melodies and sensual, lighter-than-air orchestration place it in a class well above similar comic works.
- Richard Buckley, Conductor
- Alain Gauthier, Director
- Deborah Domanski, Lazuli
- Nili Riemer, La Princesse Laoula
- Jean-Paul Fouchecourt, King Ouf I
- Kevin Glavin, Siroco
- John Boehr, Tapioca
- Liz Cass, Aloes
- Brian Joyce, Herisson
Photos by Mark Matson
The Albuquerque Journal
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
By D.S. Crafts
“If you’re going to do Rossini, you’ve got to have the horses.” So a friend of mine once said. By horses of course, he meant singers. Not just any singers but those with an extraordinary range and flexibility. The harmonies are rarely more complex than in rock or folk songs, but the vocal lines are treacherously difficult, even out of reach for most singers. They require vocal gymnastics that “American Idol” singers couldn’t even dream of attempting.
Happily, I can say with rampant enthusiasm that Opera Southwest’s new production of “La Cenerentola,” or Cinderella, indeed has the horses. This is a cast with exceptional vocal abilities.
While the principals are essentially imports from New York, Santa Fe’s own Deborah Domanski stars in the title role.
Domanski has been building a substantial local reputation with both OSW and the Santa Fe Opera. Audiences should well remember her from “Radamisto” with the SFO as well as Cherubino in OSW’s production of “Marriage of Figaro” and the Prince in “Die Fledermaus.” Here she gives her most impressive performance to date, bringing a rich texture to the full range that this part demands. She leaps through the vocal hurdles of the final aria Nacqui all’affanno (“I was born to sorrow”) with an ease born of the most accomplished technique.
Played for high comedy, Rossini’s opera replaces some of the traditional elements in the Cinderella story with more realistic touches. There are no magic pumpkins turned into coaches and the glass shoe is replaced with bracelets. The core of the classic story about Cinderella, however, remains untouched as Prince Charming succeeds in winning the girl of his dreams. The cartoonlike sets perfectly convey the comic atmosphere.
That sense of comedy nowhere comes more to the fore than with the appearance of Stephen Hartley as Dandini, the Prince’s servant posing as the Prince himself. Dandini elicits waves of laughter before even singing a note, and Hartley knows how to command the stage with the best of them.
Ashraf Sewailam lends his smooth, rich baritone to the role of Alidoro, officially the Prince’s mentor, but who acts as a kind of master of ceremonies, providing a catalyst to move the action along.
Don Magnifico, too, Cinderella’s stepfather, sung by Stephen Eisenhard, joins the jocularity as he opens his wine cellar and lets the chorus drink and ham it up to their hearts’ content.
Andrew Drost, the real Prince, brings a sweet, high-sounding tenor especially to his second-act aria, which boasts some resplendent top notes.
The two stepsisters (anything but ugly here, though full of delicious nastiness) set the comic tone vocally and visually in the very first scene.
The orchestra deftly led by music director Anthony Barrese gives solid support, so crucially necessary in this music where the voices are frequently and perilously exposed. And don’t miss the “Punch and Judy Show” during the storm scene!
I’m very excited about our opening night of La Cenerentola tomorrow with Opera Southwest. This is a fantastic cast, a sweet production, and a truly great opera!
Please join us:
423 Central Ave NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3219
Tickets: (505) 243-0591
Saturday, October 3 at 7:30 p.m.,
Friday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m.,
Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.
- Anthony Barrese, conductor
- David Bartholomew, director
- Deborah Domanski as Cinderella
- Andrew Drost as Don Ramiro
- Stephen Eisenhard as Don Magnifico
- Stephen Hartley as Dandini
- Ashraf Sewialam as Alidoro
- Moira Kelly as Clorinda
- Andrea Kiesling as Tisbe
Anthony Barrese – Music Director Opera Southwest
Deborah Domanski – Mezzo Soprano in La cenerentola
KHFM: I’m Brent Stevens, my guests on New Mexico performs tonight are Deborah Domanski who’s singing the role of Cinderella in Opera Southwest’s upcoming production and Anthony Barrese, Music Director. Welcome.
D.D. & A.B.: Thank you.
KHFM: First of all Anthony, is there anything musically about this opera by Rossini, other than wonderful music that’s really interesting, or catchy, or fun.
A.B.: The thing I think that really separates this from Rossini’s other comic operas is that there is a level of excitement and tension kind of bubbling underneath. There are so many ensembles: there’s a quintet, there’s a sextet, there are numerous duets and quartets, there’s a lot of ensemble singing, and the way that he uses the voices in this opera particularly, you have a kind of underlying orchestral texture that generates a lot of tension, and on top of that you have voices doing even more crazy stuff. So with something like the Barber of Seville, there are more set pieces, more arias, and there’s much more ensemble singing in Cenerentola. I think that gives you more options to weave things together and get interesting results.
KHFM: At what point in his career did Rossini write this?
A.B.: He was about 24 when he got the contract to write it, and he finished it before he turned 25. So he was quite young, but this was like the heyday of when he was really really big in Naples, in Venice, he had already conquered Rome, and he was about to conquer Rome more thoroughly with this. The year before he had done the Barber of Seville but this was really going to solidify his Roman reputation.
KHFM: Deborah Domanski is singing Cinderella. Tell us, what are some of the challenges for you in this?
D.D.: Well, like he said, there’s a lot of ensemble singing in it, and Cinderella’s on stage a lot. And her final aria, her only aria, is at the very very very very end. It is the finale. And to sing the entire opera and save enough for your big number is probably one of the most challenging parts.
KHFM: Cinderella’s number from the very end of Rossini’s opera. Deborah Domanski, you were saying that Rossini presented a challenge because he waits all the way until the end of the opera to give you a number like that.
D.D.: But Rossini was very kind, because most of her music lies very easy in the voice: a nice tessitura, there’s lots of coloratura, which is the fast music that my father calls it the “ha ha has”. I told him I was doing this opera, and he said “oh, yeah Rossini. He’s the ‘ha ha ha ha’ guy.” Exactly dad. So there’s lots of that in the ensembles and there’s lots of textures where different solo voices come out in the bubbling of the other voices doing staccato, short rhythmic gestures. So to have those sorts of lines come out foreshadows various arias and musical themes throughout the piece.
KHFM: And the singing, are there a lot of words to get out in this piece?
A.B.: There are a lot of really tricky tongue-twister sections, and they go at a breakneck pace. And they have to be super clear, and everybody’s singing them at the same time. Sometimes you have everybody singing them at the same time. Sometimes you have people saying them in different rhythms, but whatever it is, it’s like this motor that’s underneath everything, and it’s got to be razor sharp and precise. And there are some real tough tongue-twisters in this.
KHFM: Music from Rossini’s Cinderella, La Cenerentola. That cast included Cecila Bartoli, William Matteuzzi, Alessandro Corbelli, and Enzo Dara, the Opera Southwest production coming to the Kimo theater Saturday October 3rd, Friday October 9th, and Sunday October 11th includes Deborah Domanski as Cinderella, Andrew Drost as Don Ramiro, and Stephen Eisenhard as Don Magnifico.
A.B.: Yes, and Stephen Hartley as Dandini, Moira Kelly as Clorinda, Andrea Kiesling as Tisbe, and Ashraf Sewialam as Alidoro.
KHFM: So tell me. This is quite a role, and how do you get into this character and keep it as light as you need to considering there are some tragic underpinnings in this role.
D.D.: It’s true, she’s really an ancient character. There are traces of this story way back in history. Around 500 B.C. is the first time that they’ve found the story of a young woman, who is very poor, who gets brought up through the ranks, and who marries out of her caste, so to speak. And you see this story in very different cultures, in different languages, and it’s still one of our favorite stories today. So she has this ancient wisdom about her, and in this opera, it’s really focused on the triumph of goodness, and the whole moral of the story is: everyone has a great heart, and let’s bring that forward. She forgives her evil stepsisters and her stepfather. And the truth behind the story is he squandered her inheritance, and spent it on his real daughters, and left her to wear rags and sit by the fire, and be their servant. But I don’t think in this production, Cinderella really knows that truth, because he reveals it in the beginning of the second act, when Cinderella’s not in the room, obviously. And so I don’t know that she actually knows the story of her own life because she goes through this whole little ramble where she’s trying to tell the prince, whom she doesn’t know is really the prince at this point, how she got to be who she is, and who her parents are, etc. She doesn’t know. She keeps tripping over her tongue and she says, “my father isn’t really my father, and my mother was a widow, and my sisters are kind of my sisters, but not really…” She just doesn’t know. So this sweet girl, she really loves this family. This is her famiglia, in the true Italian sense of the family. She really loves and adores them, and I think enjoys serving them, and taking care of them. They’re obviously ungrateful, but she takes it like water off a duck’s back. She has this love of life.
KHFM: Because she’s pure of heart.
D.D.: Yes. And innocenza is repeated very often in this opera. So at the end, her goodness and innocence prevail over anything else. And in the end the prince forgives her stepfather, and her stepsisters give in and say “look, we love you too.” I don’t know if it’s that they just want a part of the royal family, or if they really want to be friends, but that is the reality of it. So there is some tragedy behind it, but I don’t see Cinderella as wallowing in it at all. She has this sweet little song that she sings about a Prince who has three women that he could possibly marry, and who does he chosse? He chooses the innocent and good sister.
KHFM: So is this based on the Perrault fairy tale?
A.B.: It’s kind of strange, at that time in Italy, I think there were three or four other Cinderella-based operas that Rossini’s librettist took bits and pieces from. And the one thing that he was very adamant about, the librettist, Jacopo Ferretti, was that we are going to remove the supernatural element from it. That is, there are no pumpkins, there’s no fairy godmother, there’s kind of a fairy-godfather-esque character, Alidoro, but even he is basically Don Ramiro’s teacher. He keeps referring to Don Ramiro as his student. So they’ve completely removed the supernatural element from it, so in that sense no, it’s not based on that. It’s more of a humanizing story. But in this production we’ve put back a little bit of magic because the fairy godfather (Alidoro) does take an almost supernatural interest in the way the story’s being told, and you can see him orchestrating the events as they go.
KHFM: Is there a ball? Is there a glass slipper?
A.B.: There is a ball.
D.D.: There is a ball, there is no glass slipper, BUT! We have these phenomenal, custom designed and made bracelets by Native American artist Michael Roanhorse, that have been donated to the opera, and they’re actually going up for auction as a fundraiser for the opera. And they exchange bracelets at the ball.
KHFM: The prince and Cinderella.
D.D.: The prince and Cinderella. He says “well, how will I ever find you?” She has matching bracelets on either wrist. And she says “here, take one of these and look for me.” He’s like, “well why can’t I just hang out with you now?” She says, “no no no,” because she’s wearing this ball gown – this is not her normal life. She says “if & when you come find me, and you see me in my real attire, if you still love me, then let’s get married.” And so he takes one of the bracelets and she goes back to the house, and before even dawn hits, he’s at the house. He finds her almost immediately. I think that might’ve been Alidoro’s little magic intervention there…
A.B.: And I think it’s great that you mention that. It’s really important that Ramiro loves her as her, and not as this gorgeous ball-gowned woman, and on the same token, from the beginning of the opera Don Ramiro, he and his valet Dandini have switched costumes because he wants to find a woman to love him for who he is, and not because he’s the prince. So while his valet Dandini is going around pretending to be the prince, and just being a real pompous jerk, he’s kind of really humble, and he’s initially very much rejected by the stepsisters. They say he has un’anima plebea, he has a very plebean soul, he’s cheap, he’s lower class, they don’t want him. So he and Cenerentola both fall in love with each other when the prince seems very poor to her. So it is really this kind of idea of goodness and innocence triumphing over everything else.
KHFM: We’re listening to excerpt’s from Rossini’s Cinderella which will be performed by Opera Southwest October 3, 9, 11 at the Kimo theater. Tickets available at 243 0591 or at ticketmaster.com.
Anthony Barrese, is this an opera that’s good for families?
A.B.: Absolutely. There’s nothing even remotely unwholesome in this production. And we do encourage families to come and see this very family oriented show.
KHFM: Being so light, it’s probably a great first opera for somebody to see.
A.B.: I would think so. Musically events change at a very rapid pace and I think it’s enough to keep even a very young audience member engaged.
KHFM: Deborah Domanski, let me ask you a little bit about your career. You got a degree from the Manhattan School of music, and New Mexico’s been pretty good to you.
D.D.: Absolutely. Yes. After Manhattan School of Music, I spent 3 years at Juilliard in their young artist program, called the Juilliard Opera Center, then I was with the Pittsburgh Opera Center for 2 years. My first real job was at Tulsa opera as Cherubino, and then I started working with OSW, and Santa Fe Opera. I was an apprentice at Santa Fe Opera in 2005 and 2006. And then last summer was a major triumph for me. I was covering a role…
KHFM: In Handel’s Radamisto.
D.D.: In Handel’s Radamisto. Which is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Which makes this opera kind of a piece of cake after having done that.
A.B.: I’ll remember that!
D.D.: [laughs] Well, Cinderella doesn’t have 6 arias. And in Radamisto the role of Zenobia, who I took over for, has 6 arias, and it’s just a marathon.
KHFM: Yeah, you were supposed to be covering the role and then you were stepping into it and doing the whole run. Right?
D.D.: Exactly. To rave reviews.
KHFM: You had quite a success. You’ve sung before with Opera Southwest.
D.D.: Yes. I’ve done 3 seasons with them now. I started with Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro in 2007. And then we did Fledermaus last season in 2008. And now we’re doing this.
A.B.: Deb is the singer I’ve worked with more than any other singer in the business. This is our third production together. It’s actually the first time she’s been playing a woman.
KHFM: How does that feel to be able to wear the gown?
D.D.: Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ve never worn a dress like this before. It’s so interesting. They have this thing called a panniers. This huge hoop. You know how women in the late 1700s, 18th century wore these dresses that made their hips look blossoming. And it’s very heavy, and it changes the way the body breathes and moves. It’s very interesting. So yesterday we did a gala performance for some of the patrons, and it was a very different experience because I’ve never sung in a dress like this before. Especially not this aria… and this is a very challenging aria. I would say this is one of the most challenging arias in the mezzo repertoire.
KHFM: And I’m thinking, the narrow staircases at the Kimo. Are you dressing backstage or are you coming up the stairs in that thing?
D.D.: I will be dressing backstage and turning sideways to get through the halls.
KHFM: So, you’ve worked with Deborah Domanski on 3 productions now. How would you say your relationship with her artistically has grown?
A.B.: I think it’s grown quite a bit. I remember the first time she sang with us, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, you had to arrive a couple of days late. And we have a very short rehearsal period. So I’m thinking “oh man, who is this diva that she has to come late?”
D.D.: [laughs] I was having my American Symphony debut, by the way.
A.B.: Yes, and I didn’t know this at all, and I’m thinking “what is this going to be like?” And she came, and she knocked out the role beautifully and amazingly, and it was just really, and I thought “great. This is what I want.” Because with that production of Figaro, even though we had a very small amount of rehearsal time, I really encouraged the singers to experiment with their roles, and to even improvise their vocal lines, like they would’ve done in the time of Mozart. And nobody took that to heart more than Deb Domanski, and even to some extent with Fledermaus last year she did this, and is really doing it with Cenerentola. So Deborah is more than just a singer. She’s a musician, she’s an artist, she delves into the role, she knows what all the words mean. She has a real intellectual curiosity that I rarely see these days. Especially with having a kind of spontaneity with wanting to experiment with shaping the music in different ways. Because like she said, there’s a lot of coloratura, and in the time of Rossini, people would’ve improvised ways of doing it. And she’s very aggressive in coming to it with a real inventiveness, that as a conductor, I really appreciate.
D.D.: It’s fun to be inventive, because in rehearsal we do it so many different times. You rehearse a scene over and over, and it’s like “ooh, I want to try it this way. I want to experiment with this.” And you can do it musically and dramatically. And bless David Bartholomew (the director’s) heart. He lets me play a lot. At one point I said to him, “what do you think of a Carol Burnett spin on Cenerentola? With the mop cap?” and he was like, “well, we could work with that. Let’s see how it develops.”
A.B.: And I think that having done these 3 shows with her, the first time I said, “I really want you to experiment.” And she did. And it was a limitation on my part, that she was doing so much and I couldn’t keep up with her, and I remember there was this one spot where I just said, “I need you to look at me there, because I can’t follow you.” And in Fledermaus there was even less of this, and when we got to the first rehearsals of Cenerentola I thought “well, I kind of know how she’s thinking now. I kind of know where this is going to go.” So I feel much more connected to her in a musical sense which makes everything much easier, and it makes me more relaxed, and I hope it makes her more relaxed, and it makes it more able for us to make music. And it’s really an exciting collaboration for me.
KFHM: Now would you like Anthony to leave the room so you can tell me what you think of him?
D.D.: [laughs] No, I was just going to thank him and say what a fantastic opportunity it is to work and develop our relationship because he is an incredible musician and he allows the space for that experimentation, but also within the framework of some very specific rules, that allow for even more freedom, if that makes sense. He has a very clear way of conducting that makes it so much easier, and so much more comfortable for the singers to have that freedom. And this is a truly wonderful group; the entire cast is brilliant.
A.B.: This cast is exceptional.
KFHM: It’s a shame that there seems to be such a tension between you two. I hope you can overcome that by the time the production opens.
KHFM: Anthony Barrese is the Music Director of Opera Southwest, and Deborah Domanski is playing Cinderella in the production of Rossini’s La cenerentola, Saturday October 3rd 7:30 P.M. Friday the 9th 7:30 P.M., and Sunday [October 11th ] 2:00 P.M. at the Kimo theater. Tickets: 243 0591 or online at ticketmaser.com
Deborah Domanski and Anthony Barrese thank you very much.
D.D. & A.B.: Thank you.
The Albuquerque Journal
grown-up fairy tale
Sunday, September 27, 2009
By David Steinberg
Cinderella is a classic fairy tale that has crossed cultures. One of the earliest versions supposedly goes back to ancient Greece.
Not surprisingly, the subject has been transformed to the opera stage in the form of Gioachino Rossini’s popular “La Cenerentola,” which premiered in 1817.
Opera Southwest will give it three performances at the KiMo Theatre Saturday, Oct. 3, and Oct. 9 and 11.
But the Rossini opera is aimed at all ages. It’s not a children’s opera. “It’s the same story, but a little more mature,” said David Bartholomew, stage director of the production and artistic director of the company.
Except for the title character, whose name is Angelina, the prince, who is Don Ramiro, and the virtuoso singers, the characters in the small cast are comical, Bartholomew said. He thinks of the opera as being closer to a romantic comedy than to a fairy tale.
Mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski, who sings the title role, is the reason why Opera Southwest chose to do this opera, Bartholomew said. “(Music director) Tony Barrese and I talked about her doing a ‘Cenerentola’ for us, with her skills … primarily vocal skills. It calls for a mezzo-soprano voice with a lot of agility, fast singing and high singing all over the range,” the stage director said.
“That’s Deborah’s strong point — having that kind of coloratura voice.”
Bartholomew said there were other factors in choosing Domanski: She’s a New Mexico singer, she’s performed in two previous Opera Southwest productions and she had stepped in at the last minute in the role of Zenobia in the 2008 Santa Fe Opera production of “Radamisto.”
“She had wonderful reviews, and the response to her performance was very good. On the scale that the Santa Fe Opera is, it was quite a coup for a younger singer,” he said.
Domanski said she’s been waiting to sing “La Cenerentola” until her voice has matured to fit the role.
“The final aria (“Nacqui all’affanno … Non piu mesta”) is one of the great mezzo-soprano feats that is in all opera, and probably one of the most difficult arias in the mezzo-soprano repertoire,” she said in a phone interview from her Santa Fe home.
In the aria, Domanski said, her character sings of being “born to woe and weeping. Through some sweet, enchantinglike flash of lightning, my luck has changed.”
She wants to portray her character not as a person who deserves sympathy, but something different. Dramatically, she said, sympathy goes only so far and then it gets boring.
“She’s so charming, so cool, so funny, and she has all this fast coloratura,” Domanski said. “Someone depressed, downtrodden wouldn’t sing anything like that. She’s a very loving person. That’s why the prince is drawn to her.”
The opera’s subtitle happens to be “Goodness Triumphant.”
Among the other singers in the production are Andrew Drost as Don Ramiro, Stephen Eisenhard as the stepfather Don Magnifico and Moira Kelley as Clorinda and Andrea Kiesling as Tisbe, the two stepsisters.
Bartholomew said the Opera Southwest is re-imagining its production theatrically and visually by turning the KiMo stage into a Victorian toy theater. An English family parlor entertainment, the toy theater represented a grand theater, he said.
“It’s a wonderful theatrical, operatic devise that adds another dimension,” he said. “It’s the perfectly scaled piece for all the forces of Opera Southwest, the principal of which is the intimacy of the KiMo.”
If you go
WHAT: Gioachino Rossini’s opera “La Cenerentola.” Sung in Italian with English supertitles
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Repeats 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 2 p.m. Oct. 11
WHERE: KiMo Theatre, Fifth and Central NW
HOW MUCH: Tickets for the general public are $20, $25, $45, $55 and $65 and are available in advance at the KiMo box office, at Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 243-0591 or 800-745-3000. Discounts for seniors, students, children 12 and under and groups
In the last 6 months I’ve had the opportunity to connect with audiences through 3 different roles. I so enjoyed becoming each of these characters that it makes me want to go on and do as much uplifting as I possibly can.In May I played Signora Guidotti in Nino Rota’s I due timidi (The Timid Twosome), as the laughable landlady of whom another character sings, “Beware the paint-peeling voice of the tyrant!” It’s so much fun to make people laugh and it was a marvelous opportunity to apply a Carol Burnett/Lucille Ball imprint in an opera. Then the highlight of my career so far: stepping into the role of Zenobia, the Thracian princess in Handel’s Radamisto on day one of rehearsals and experiencing this thrilling tour de force role to the standing ovations of the six sold out audiences at Santa Fe Opera. I was honored when The New York Times wrote, “The lovely mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski (replacing Christine Rice, who withdrew from the production because of illness) sings the courageous Zenobia with luscious sound and lyrical refinement.” – Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, Monday, August 4, 2008… and the Financial Times added “Zenobia’s fidelity to Radamisto has a fiery side, especially when she struggles to rebuff Tiridate, and Deborah Domanski’s fine lyric soprano conveys it excitingly. Her silky, bare-midriff costume bespeaks a sexiness that explains her appeal to Tiridate.” – George Loomis, Financial Times, Wednesday, Aug 6, 2008…. but best of all General Director Richard Gaddes said of my performances, “Magnificent,” and Artistic Director Brad Woolbright commented, “Fabulous!”
My professional plans for the next 3 years include expanding my experience as I rock the great houses of the world!… And I’m looking forward to seeing you there when I do!As Orlofsky says “Chacun a son gout!” Enjoy yourselves, get carried away at the opera, and have a great season!