Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Stephen Sondheim has got to be one of the great composers of musical theatre of the past century. I say century because he is three days younger than I!

Company last night at Barrington Stage again proved this point. It is a wonderful show filled with great music and choice lyrics. Last night's cast was in top form.

Image result for aaron tveit actor

Aaron Tveit as Bobby was as good as Dean Jones in the original production, which I saw in 1970. A good actor, he had the necessary high range for his last big number 'Being live'.

Image result for ellen harvey actress photos

Ellen Harvey stopped the show as Joanne, singing "The ladies who lunch'. Elaine Stritch was the first Joanne and is  tough act to follow.

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Likewise, Lauren Marcus with 'I'm not getting married today', a lightning-fast tongue twister which she delivered with breathless speed, delighting the audience.

Nora Schell as Marta has an enormous voice in 'Another hundred people just got offa the train'. Perhaps too big to be amplified. Her high notes gave me a headache. Female Broadway singers should be legally barred from Belting that high in their range!

The rest of the cast was excellent. Kate Loprest as Susan, Paul Schaefer as Peter, Jeanette Bayardelle as Sarah, Lawrence Street as Harry, Joseph Spieldenner as Paul, Jane Pfitsch as Jenny, James Ludwig as David, Mara Davi as April, and Rebecca Kuznick as Kathy. 

The conductor was Dan Pardo who kept everything moving at a smart pace. 

It was a good closing performance for the summer season.

Monday, August 21, 2017


David and I are spending a long weekend at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival near Cooperstown, NY.

The first people we ran into last night as we arrived for the performance of Porgy and Bess were Jane Bryden and Chris Kruger. Jane was my 'boss' when I taught at Smith, having called me right after John's death and asking me teach there. I told her she had just saved my life, since I had had to stop all my teaching three years before to stay at home to care for John. Serendipity!

The performance of Gershwin's masterpiece was simply sensational. A glorious outpouring of beautiful sound from the entire cast.

Image result for meroe khalia adeeb photos  Meroe Khalia Adeeb

When Clara, sung by Meroe Khalia Adeeb, opened the opera singing 'Summertime', I thought, 'Bess will have a hard time topping this when she sings it later on'. And she did.

Image result for talise trevigne photos Talise Trevigne

Bess, sung by Talise  Trevigne, had a beautiful voice but lost her low register by the end of the opera. She paid for her lovely high notes.

Musa Ngqungwana

Porgy, sung by Musa Ngqungwana, had an enormous voice and, unfortunately, very poor diction.

Image result for simone z paulwell soprano    Simone Z. Paulwell

Serena, sung by Simone Z. Paulwell, stole the show with 'My man's gone now'. Ravishing voice.

Eric Shane, filling in as Jake,  was sensational.

The conductor was John DeMain.

The rest of the cast were equally fine.

I first saw Porgy in the fifties with Leontyne Price and William Warfield.  A hard act to follow.

Again, as in the Lyric Opera production, Porgy was on a crutch. In the New York production he was on his knees on a little wagon drawn by a goat. At the end when he says 'Bring me my goat', intending to follow Bess to New York, where she has fled with Sportin'  Life (also a fine singer, Frederick Ballentine) and starts off to make the trip on his knees, it was much more dramatic than 'Bring me my crutch!', as if he planned to walk.

Overall a terrific evening! 


It looks like I will have to eat my words!!

For years I have had disparaging things to say about most countertenors. I admit it. I just don't like to hear men singing in falsetto.

But last night, at Glimmerglass, in the performance of Handel's Xerxes, I had a major change of heart. The cause of this was John Holiday Jr. who sang the title role. He is simply amazing. And for almost the first time in my life I experienced a man singing in falsetto without thinking 'Why are you doing that???' It seemed perfectly logical. It also seemed perfectly marvelous.

Image result for john holiday jr  

I have had a long history with countertenors as well as with Xerxes.

First- countertenors.

When I was studying with Mrs. William Neidlinger in New York in the fifties, Russell Oberlin was also one of her students and we became friends. Russell was really the first American countertenor and had a most unusual voice. He could sing to tenor f above high c in true voice before going into falsetto.  Not many men can do that. He had no low notes to speak of. We did a series of concerts together with the wonderful flutist, Frances Blaisdell, which included some pieces written for the three of us by Louie White. Russell was my idea of a countertenor.


Image result for lorraine hunt lieberson

 Back in the nineties Lorraine Hunt, later Lieberson, worked with me for a solid month on the role of Xerxes at Rood Hill Farm. Some kind neighbors up the hill offered her their house for the month of September. John and I went to LA for the performances where we heard countertenor Brian Asawa singing the role of Arsamenes opposite Lorraine's Xerxes. I said to John 'He sounds like Helen Traubel!' And he did!

Well so does Mr. Holiday! What a wonderful voice and a fine actor.

Now I think I have eaten enough words.

There's not much to say about the plot of Xerxes. Mixed-up engagements which finally are worked out to everyone's satisfaction. Great music by Mr. Handel. And great singing by this entire cast!

Allegra de Vita sang Arsamenes, an interesting switch from LA where the woman sang Xerxes and a man Arsemenes. 

Calvin Griffin was Elviro, Emily Pogoreic was Romilda, Katrine Galka was Atalanta, Abigale Dock was Amastris, and Brett Michael Smith was Ariodates.

They were all excellent singers!

The staging by Tazewell Thomas left a lot to be desired. Mostly walking around looking for a way to get off stage when their aria was finished. I don't remember what Steve Wadsworth did in LA but it was more interesting than this.

The conductor was Nicole Paiement.

But thanks to Mr. Holiday's amazing singing, I have had a delicious meal of words as well as some very happy memories.


I doubt that Donizetti's The Siege of Calais will ever be my favorite opera especially in the production done at Glimmerglass Saturday afternoon. The 1376 siege was moved up to contemporary times making the King of England pardon six citizens who were to be shot in order to save the rest of the town. Maybe that was popular in the 14th century, but I doubt he/she would get away with that these days.

This is the whole point of the opera. Calais is under siege, the mayor agrees to be one of six who are sacrificed along with his son in order to save the city, and I just told you the ending. They don't get shot.

Adrian Timpau sang very well as the Mayor. He has a large resonant voice and acted well.

Photo: Fay Fox

Leah Crocetto as his wife has a voice that is beautiful in places but screamy at the top. Creamy and screamy!Not good for this role.
 Kristin Hoebermann 2014

Aleks Romano as the son sang very well. It seems odd to have a woman doing a 'pants' role at this period, although Strauss did it for Octavian (a throwback to Mozart). 

The rest of the cast sang well, which is what I have come to expect at Glimmerglass.

The conductor was Joseph Colanen.

Wonderful male chorus singing! 


Oklahoma is a grand old musical!

Even I am too young to have seen the original Broadway production in 1943 (I was 13 and still in Battle Creek) but it paved the way for a new type of musical. No more just a line of chorus girls and a lot of jokes, but a real plot where the music carries the story rather than merely decorates it.

I did see the revival in 2002, which was excellent, and, of course, the film.

Sunday's performance was very good but not quite up to Broadway standards. It's hard for young singers training for opera to come off as Broadway singers. In the days of the original Broadway production, you really had to SING to be on Broadway. No mics! But it's hard for opera singers to sound like their Broadway counterparts.

    Image result for jared ott     Jared Ott

The two who came off the best, vocally and dramatically, were Jarett Ott as Curly and Michael Hewitt as Jud Fry. Both are splendid actors and have wonderful voices. Michael was a bit too good looking to seem ominous as Jud, but brought it off fine.

Image result for michael hewitt    Michael Hewitt

Vanessa Becerra as Laurey had a lovely voice but was a bit under-powered, often being covered by the orchestra. 

Image result for vanessa becerra soprano   Vanessa Becerra
This is unusual at Glimmerglass, where the balance between the singers and the orchestra is usually perfect. The conductor was James Lowe. Maybe he just got carried away with this, the final performance of the season.

Ado Annie was not well cast.

All in all it was a very enjoyable show and Jarett and Michael should have careers ahead of them.

Image result for judith skinner   Judith Skinner

Judith Skinner was good as Aunt Eller and had the right voice for the part.

Over all, a wonderful weekend of music in an idyllic setting.