Thursday, July 26, 2012

OperaNJ at the Paramount This Weekend

Looking forward to seeing two OperaNJ productions at the Paramount Theatre this weekend. I’ll be reviewing them for the Asbury Park Press to run sometime during the week.

I’m really hoping at least one of the shows is a sellout crowd. Metro Lyric Opera used to be able to draw well but as I recall they rarely sold out completely.

But OperaNJ is not Metro Lyric. For all the joy that it brought us here at the Shore -- 50 years of it, in steady summer performances -- Metro Lyric was most remarkable because it was a homemade outfit. Shabby sets and costumes, local music lovers in the chorus, uneven stage direction and musical rehearsals -- all charming as heck, but not the most professional of presentations.

But even in the most awkward of circumstances, the young professionals in the lead roles could occasionally catch fire. And the community dearly loved “Madame,” the late Era Tognoli, who ran the entire shebang.

OperaNJ on the other hand is a thoroughly professional company. You’ll find its young singers on major stages all over the world, and the conductors, the set designs, the stage direction, the costumes are all absolutely first rate.

The New Jersey Symphony Chamber Orchestra plays for all Opera New Jersey performances, a genuinely world-class band.

Reviews are pouring in regarding these two productions, Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” and Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” and they are nearly all positive.

OperaNJ’s home is the rather fabulous McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Squeezing the productions into the Paramount with its limited backstage area will take some doing, including a few trailers for the singers.

But the Paramount is in many respects a suitable house, even with the adjustments. A historic theater right on the boardwalk, it has its own tradition at the center of the Shore's rich artistic history.

Former Princeton Symphony Orchestra conductor Mark Laycock leads the performance of “H.M.S. Pinafore” 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 27. Stage direction is by Michael Unger and the production includes Michael Gets as the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter and Sean Anderson as Captain Corcoran, with Mathew Edwardsen, Sarah Beckham and Jennifer Feinstein.

Victor DeRenzi conducts “Il Trovatore” 3 p.m. Sunday, July 29. Stephanie Sundine is the director and leads include tenor Rafael Dávila as Manrico, with Erica Strauss as his love interest Leonora. In addition, recent Metropolitan Opera auditions winner Margaret Mezzacappa will sing Azucena. Also featured are baritone Marco Nisticò as Count de Luna and bass Young Bok Kim as Ferrando.

Tickets and more information can be found at OperaNJ’s website, or by calling 609-799-7700.
See you there!

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