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Destination Chelsea - The Bear/The Scarf

 
Big Voices and rich characters at Chelsea Opera!


It was a gift to hear music in St. Peter’s Church last evening, a little-known gem located in the heart of Chelsea on 20th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. I attended Chelsea Opera’s opening night of “The Scarf,?with music by Lee Hoiby and “The Bear,?with music by William Walton, with a diverse mix of opera enthusiasts filling the Church pews.  Both operas are based on works by Anton Chekhov, a writer known for creating dramatic stories rich with intense characters.
 
Ominous notes from a bassoon opened “The Scarf,?based on Chekhov’s story titled “The Witch,?foreshadowing the dark drama to come. An unhappy young wife Miriam (played by Caprice Corona) argues with her older husband Reuel (played by Anthony Daino) during a fierce winter blizzard, as Reuel accuses his wife of casting spells to lure young men to their home. A knock on the door reveals a Postman (played by Peter Clark) who has lost his way and needs shelter, much to Reuel’s chagrin.  The Postman and Miriam connect as the husband sleeps, but as the night deepens, Reuel awakes and jealously commands the Postman to leave. When the husband exits to ready the Postman’s horse, Miriam and the Postman embrace. She sends the Postman off with a scarf she cast with a spell to bring him back to her. Unfortunately, the scarf returns around her husband’s neck instead, and enraged, Miriam uses the scarf to strangle him to death.
Daino convincingly portrayed the overbearing husband in this story, with expressive grimaces and angry gestures to make any wife wish for a better life. Clark’s dashing Postman with full baritone was the perfect foil to Daino’s careful and harping tenor.  Corona was at her strongest when alone onstage, casting her vocal spell on the scarf, her gaze frightfully direct and impassioned. The opera ended with a striking picture, as Corona pulls the scarf just used to murder her husband taut across space, in a futile attempt to escape her life of unhappiness.
 
On a much lighter and more playful note, Luka (played by Lawrence Long) a young widow’s manservant sets a comedic tone with a very audible and exasperated sigh at the top of “The Bear,?based on Chekhov’s work of the same name. Long, has a rich voice and brilliant comedic timing, inviting the audience in from the moment he stepped foot onstage. As the story unfolds, Popova, the young widow in mourning (played by Julie De Vaere) is unwillingly called upon by Smirnov, (played by Chelsea Opera newcomer Daniel Quintana) a rude acquaintance of her late husband’s looking to collect the debt that he is owed. Needless to say, a humorous struggle (both vocal and physical) ensues between the young widow and the cocky debt collector, leading them to fall in love, despite their best efforts.  Quintana delivered a rich baritone in the evening’s melodramatic comedy, and his humorous facial expressions and gestures as the arrogant Smirnov had the audience laughing. De Vaere’s prim and proper Popova handled the challenging timing of the music with grace, and shared great chemistry with Quintana’s conceited Smirnov. “The Bear?was well cast, and was full of energy, both from the performers onstage and the talented members of the Chelsea Opera Chamber Orchestra, passionately led by Conductor Carmine Aufiero.
 
From the inspired set designs to the passionate performances, it was an enjoyable evening at the opera in a fantastic neighborhood venue.  You can find Chelsea Opera’s upcoming performances online at www.chelseaopera.org
PERMALINK |  POST COMMENTS (0) |  By ElizabethK on November 10.

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