Arts & Culture

Performers infuse classic opera with humor

By
Staff Writer
Monday, March 19, 2012

With the desks cleared out and chairs pushed aside, Foxboro Auditorium was transformed into a miniature concert hall Friday night for Brown Opera Productions’ chamber performance premiere of “Don Pasquale.” 

“‘Don Pasquale’ is one of (Gaetano) Donizetti’s last operas and stands as one of his greatest comic masterpieces from his prolific operatic career,” said Jacob Klapholz ’13, the music director. It is “a huge spectacle and a physical show,” said Director Michelle Migliori ’14. The plot and music are “silly and fun,” featuring humor, action and an interesting stage in the style of downtown Chicago, she added. 

The chamber performance only presented the opera’s music without the acting or staging. The full performance was presented for the first time last night and will be presented again tonight in Alumnae Hall. The show opened with a quiet cello solo that soon developed into vibrant orchestral and vocal performances. The plot’s drama and comedy were projected through actors’ exaggerated but natural motions and facial expressions that accompanied the changing tone and intensity of music. 

The music of “Don Pasquale” “requires incredible voices from the four lead characters,” including Don Pasquale (John Brakatselos ’15), Dr. Malatesta (Zal Shroff ’14), Ernesto (Andrew Brown ’15) and Norina (Kathryn Cohen ’13), as well as from the ensemble, Klapholz said. 

He added that the music will make audience members laugh. Miranda Forman ’12, who plays the viola in the orchestra, said the chorus is “breathtaking,” especially with the unconventional chord changes in the last serenade, she added. 

 “The music is definitely not designed for 20-year-olds to sing,” Brown said. Forman said the preparation was challenging, with several late night rehearsals. Nevertheless, performing with the orchestra was an “exhilarating experience” filled with much energy and excitement, Shroff said.  

The actors had different concerns for the performance. Brakatselos said he tried hard to keep the diction clear and maintain a sense of power in his voice. Brown, who described the role of Ernesto as a “hopeless romantic,” said he tried to express the anguish, passion and love in his character. 

Shroff said working with people with a common interest in classical music was the most enjoyable part of the project.  

Klapholz said he enjoyed working with the singers in addition to conducting the orchestra. Some of the singers “have never sung opera, never sung in a chorus (and) never performed on stage before,” he said. It was a rewarding and exciting experience to “open people’s eyes” to a new form of art, he added. 

Many performers recommended that audience look out for the sheer fun and humor in the plot. Klapholz said he hopes the performance will show people how accessible opera can be and “how fun it can be to perform, watch and listen to.” 

Tor Clark, an audience member, said he looks forward to Brown Opera Productions’ show every year and added that the quality of this year’s concert matched his high expectations. Despite the lack of subtitles for the Italian opera, the plot and comedy were still easy to follow, he said. 

Richard Van Horne, another audience member, said the performers sounded “fabulous and professional.” 

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