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Madama Butterfly 蝶々夫人
The company has developed an exceedingly loyal following by entertaining them with productions featuring young singers in zany settings of traditional operas. ... The company’s latest production, however, is on a visual scale beyond anything it has taken on before — a sumptuously costumed, fully staged, bilingual co-production (with Houston’s Opera in the Heights) of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. ... The production also introduces a clever linguistic bridge by having the culturally conscious American consul, Sharpless (Kenneth Stavert) and the opportunistic Japanese fixer, Goro (Eiji Miura) both bilingual. Throughout the opera, Sharpless whispers translations (and wasted words of wisdom) into the ear of the feckless American sailor, Lt. B.F. Pinkerton (tenor Peter Lake). At the same time, Goro serves the same function translating for the child-bride-to-be, Cho-Cho San (superbly sung, on short notice, by Australian soprano, Janet Todd).
Most of all, I felt that Butterfly gained a dimension of self-agency through being allowed to sing in her own language...This production goes to Houston later in the month and this is the second big thing I want to say: it could go on from there and much further.
Their ecstatic end of Act 1 love duet, the longest in any Puccini opera, was more powerful here than I have seen given that not understanding each other’s language, they added a degree of pantomime to their longing for one another. The staging of their final encounter made a stronger impact than I have ever seen before...Unusual as POP’s approach is for this work, I suspect it may prompt imitation.
Maestro Isomura and his wonderful 22-piece orchestra wove seamlessly Puccini’s beautiful music throughout the performance, while the outstanding chorus (made up of the South Bay Singers) under the direction of Naoko Suga, was a knock out in all of their segments, especially in their initial entrance in act one.
POP is not only putting on high-quality opera, but also redefining the genre. Their stated goal is to make opera accessible, affordable and entertaining — and they’re on fire... there were people from the Japanese community and beyond who had perhaps never seen an opera. At least many had never seen “Butterfly,” if the startled gasps when Pinkerton’s American wife walked on stage in the final act are any indication.
Shaw gave... a lovely playing space in which to move his actors about. The dominating structure of the house stage right was complemented by terraced walkways and porches that skirted the edifice. I especially like the elevated upper terrace down left, from which characters could dominate a scene, and/or simply observe. It is from here that Butterfly inscrutably scans the horizon with her telescope at the end of Act II. There are many finely detailed touches in the direction and design. A flag makes for an amusing revelation, then becomes a tragic prop. The strewing of the flowers morphs into a surprising coup de theatre of visual delight.
日本では「敷居が高い」というイメージがあるオペラ。しかし、欧米ではカジュアルな服装で観劇する若者もよく見られる。オペラ作品の多くが欧米の言語による上演ということもあり、日本人にとってはなかなか馴染みにくい身近に感じづらいようだが、そんなバリアを破ったのがＰａｃｉｆｉｃ Ｏｐｅｒａ Ｐｒｏｊｅｃｔ（ＰＯＰ）だ。今月、ロサンゼルスのアラタニ劇場にて、イタリア人作曲家ジャコモ・プッチーニの有名オペラ作品『Ｍａｄａｍｅ Ｂｕｔｔｅｒｆｌｙ（蝶々夫人）』の史上初となる日英バイリンガル上演を行った
POPの芸術監督、Josh Shaw氏とOpera in the Heightsの芸術監督、Eiki Isomura氏が、プッチーニの作品を基にして、「蝶々夫人とピンカートンは、どのように意思の疎通をするのだろうか？」という視点から、英語と日本語の二つの言語で仕上げた
Bass-baritone Adrian Rosas performs the title role with a mixture of confidence, arrogance and cruelty that seems just right...Levin is hilarious in his obsequiousness toward his boss and his self-importance. Another standout is Daria Somers as Donna Elvira. While her continual complaining and perpetual victimhood can get a bit annoying, she rescues the role with a strong, glamorous stage presence and a rich, smooth soprano of undeniable power and control.
This was my second Pacific Opera Project production and it’s fast becoming my favorite company. As a person who can’t afford orchestra seats much of my opera viewing has been from high up in the balcony...Pacific Opera Project is the antithesis of this. With the goal of bringing opera to the masses every show is reasonably priced and presented in an intimate, entirely unique setting.
Possessing a deep, rich voice and striking stage presence, he (Adrian Rosas as Don Giovanni) is the center of attention, literally, giving the audience a potent, overall performance that goes from a smooth, narcissistic, arrogant cad to a scared wimp , when he meets his final doom. As his faithful man-servant Leporello, bass-baritone E. Scott Levin who is a regular POP artist, serves not only as an outstanding comic relief role but has some serious dramatic moments where he showcases his strong and versatile vocal skills...Possessing an outstanding vocal instrument, Ms. Frank wowed everyone in this role (Donna Anna) with gorgeous notes and high, pure legatos that hovered over the orchestra effortlessly
For this complex and sophisticated production, the evening’s musical accompaniment was up to par, thanks to award winning musical director/conductor Ryan Murray who led an outstanding group of 17 musicians and chorus.
La boheme, A.K.A. "The Hipsters"
What really makes this playful fable come together is the duo’s singing. Suarez has a big, heroic voice with an appealing, suitably romantic tone. Somers embodies Mimi with a lovely vocal radiance that’s powered by an impressive force that ripples across the room in shimmering waves. When the two lovers engage in a duet at the end of Act I, they harmonize idyllically as they walk slowly into the crowd, through the lobby and out the front door of the building, accompanied only by Zaeri’s spare piano accents and the soft percussion of their own footsteps. All joking aside, it’s a transfixing moment of sublime beauty.
The costumes by Maggie Green were spot on for the hipster look, while some of Shaw’s updated set design and props included a mural of a Donald Trump caricature with flying pigs that Marcello would be painting on in Act 3 and the substitute of a “pussy hat” for Mimi’s famous bonnet gift from Rodolfo in Act 2Not to be outdone was his irreverent, loose translation of the libretto, sprinkled with current lingo and political/cultural climate nods that had me on the floor laughing with references to Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Jared Kushner among others – just another night at a POP opera.
The Medium & The Monkey's Paw
DeRosa’s song-like piano score accompanies the voices to good advantage and never overpowers them. She makes a fine impression with her first opera. I am told that she may add a string quartet to the accompaniment or orchestrate the score for a chamber ensemble. I’d like to see this opera again in any form available. Pianist and conductor Douglas Sumi played DeRosa’s piano score with great style and consummate virtuosity.
All the singing actors in these two operas created credible characters that added a great deal to the evening’s entertainment. This double bill was an enchanting show that put the audience into the mood for a scary but fun Halloween.
As the tormented and conniving “Baba,” Lopez gave a tour-de-force performance which combines excellent acting with gorgeous, rich vocals as she questions her sanity by the end of the opera. In the role of Monica, Friedlander was up to par with a delicate, crystalline voice and an ingénue demeanor...POP has once again proved that great opera requires more than just money. It requires heart, creativity and, in this double opera bill, a bit of fright on stage.
Lucia di Lammermoor
The performers led by Jamie Chamberlin as Lucia and Nathan Granner as Edgardo were incredibly talented and sung beautifully. The set and costumes truly captured Scotland and we were even treated to a bagpipe performance before the show...With a starting cost of $65 per table it truly is an affordable way to view world class opera.
Having been to similar open-air performances where conviviality definitely trumped attention, I had some concern about audience response, but need not have worried. Donizetti’s dramatic instinct brings his principal villain into the action very quickly, and baritone Daniel Scofield as Lucia’s duplicitous, vengeful, and manipulative brother Enrico duly seized the moment, and roared and snarled his beard-thrusting, tam o’shanter-quivering, kilt-swirling way into the role, stilling audience murmurs and cellphone-checking by sheer force of personality.
The Elixir of Love
Take a note, America. You can turn tragic into magic...at the height of a heavy storm, a transformer blew in front of the Highland Park Ebell Club; there would definitely be no electricity for the show...at one point the generator ran out of gas; as it was refilled, viewers lit the stage with cell phone flashlights (think fluorescent candlelight). The singers never missed a beat negotiating a multi-level set, and Nicholas Gilmore’s upstage orchestra didn’t lose its place.
It’s a privilege to see such an impressive and talented cast presented in an intimate space for such a low price (a table for 2 with charcuterie plate and wine is only $65). Aside from the awesome vocals, everyone is extraordinarily well cast. This fab outing will not only cement its reputation among devotees, but will gain new admirers. This is a nifty way to introduce opera to the cats in your life.
Once again Josh Shaw, the artistic director and co-founder of POP, has a huge hit on his hands, this time set in the world of 1950s Americana. The direction by Shaw and choreography by the talented Amy Lawrence kept the show moving seamlessly while giving the audience a classic opera wrapped up in ‘50s attire...put together impeccably by the talented [Costume designer] Maggie Green.
The Merry Widder
Comedy doesn’t always age gracefully, and comic scenes are usually the Achilles heel of operetta performances. Shaw sweeps the cobwebs away by creating comic scenes which are modern in flavor and often use the self-referential style which has become popular in musicals and animated television shows. Stephen Karr’s reduction of the score neatly manages to keep many of the colors from the original orchestration and he conducts the performance with flair.
The Merry Widow (or Widder as dubbed in POP’s latest operatic showpiece), is filled with POP’s well-known style of frolic and laughter. With new English lyrics by Josh and Kelsey Shaw, the approach to the story is filled with everything from raunchy humor to witty puns and everything in between...as the story progresses we are treated to Radio City Hall-type burlesque, choreographed wonderfully by Amy Lawrence.
LA Opera should take note of Pacific Opera Project. The upstart company’s edgy productions explode popular perceptions of what opera is and how it should be performed. Pacific Opera Project takes this typically elite art form and strips it down to its barest essentials: stunning music and simple, enjoyable stories...superbly brought to life in a setting that is faithful to the original, as well as intimately and creatively wrought ... it is a production that sparkles with wit and infectious joie de vivre.
Pacific Opera Project continues to build its reputation for reimagining operas for broader entertainment value, and La Bohème largely succeeds on that level. It reminds us that opera was never meant to be some ossified memorial to a long-dead composer, but, rather, a POPular entertainment that welcomes experimentation and irreverence. Hipsters in Eastside L.A.? Yeah, why not? After the opera I retreated to Highland Park’s own Café Momus, The York, for a drink. Inside were pretty much the same people I had just seen on stage… Puccini would have recognized them as well, I think.
Pacific Opera Project has become L.A.’s most exciting new opera company. In just three years since POP began with the teeny-tiny production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, I sensed that this would be the company to make quality opera more accessible, approachable, and affordable. Exceeding my expectations, POP opened their biggest production yet last Friday with a Tosca that is more powerfully intimate and emotionally successful than many of the large-budget productions seen at major opera houses.
Considering that even the most expensive premium-seat tickets are only $50, this Tosca represents one of the best values you’d ever expect to find in opera today, especially at this high level of production quality. Highly recommended.
There are two major stars-to-be here: Patrick Blackwell, a deep, full-voiced baritone who also dramatically projects the evil dickishness of Scarpia, and Brian Cheney, whose bright, focused tones ring out heroically as Mario Cavaradossi. Seeing them in an intimate venue like St. James should give you unimpeachable bragging rights ten years from now.
"One of the best moments of the production comes at the end of the first act when director/set designer Josh Shaw uses the cast of children choristers, nuns and other church member roles to surround the audience in the final musical number. While holding lit candles, this mass of singers engulfs the sanctuary with glorious sounds and the smell of incense while creating a visual spectacle to be remembered."
The Barber of Seville
Can you mount an opera like Rossini’s Barber of Seville on a shoestring budget and also squeeze all the laughs and coloratura out of every moment? If you are Josh Shaw, Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Company and his partner, Music Director Stephen Karr, you can. They are on a mission to bring the fun of opera to the masses and it’s working... the physical comedy is boisterously over the top. No stodgy yawn-producing work here. It’s like going to The Groundlings sketch comedy show and finding brilliant singing along with a wonderfully put together story.
POP’s pop-up production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville delivers the quality, comedy, approachability and affordability that audiences have come to expect from LA’s most exciting new opera company. While artistic director Josh Shaw might go a little over the top on occasion, at least in terms of comic good taste, his creative vision never ceases to amaze.
...about the most fun one can have in a Los Angeles theater right now. Die hard G&S fans may be in for a bit of a shock and may need to fan themselves excessively during the show with their “Japanese fans.” But, in the end, they will join the novices in jumping to their feet in a standing ovation.
Barbara Brennen, Maestro Arts & Reviews
You will never see a more colorful Mikado than the one Pacific Opera Project is presenting ... It’s unlikely, too, that you will hear a better-sung, livelier and more attractive performance anywhere else. But the colorful costumes don’t hide a cast that has all the moves, from snapping fans to deep bows, and the singing ability to make The Mikado a musical and comic delight.
Gaudy, flashy and with eye-popping colors, the over-the-top visuals of Pacific Opera Project’s The Mikado are the Technicolor herald of a new cultural gun in town. The idea that in 2013 a new opera company barely two years old can, on a shoestring budget, manage to sell out its performances is indeed encouraging news for the local arts scene.
POP's The Mikado is sure to create many more fans for a new and thriving opera company! It makes you wonder what Shaw and Karr might come up with if given all the resources of a large opera company.
With Mikado, Artistic Director Josh Shaw and Music Director Stephen Karr have refined their recipe of equal parts delight and trenchant stylization. Pacific Opera Projects future will be intriguing to watch. Southern California is that much richer for the company's presence.
The Turn of the Screw
...an appropriately alarming immediacy could not be avoided in this space...Intimacy also meant inescapable walls of vocal power...expertly conducted by one of the company's founders, Stephen Karr the playing proved excellent."
Can (POP) pull off a production without laughs? The answer is an unambiguous yes... an intensely dark and disturbing production... The Turn of the Screw provides plenty of pause for thought, especially given Shaw’s brave and unflinching production of Britten’s operatic oddity.
...a significant pivot for the young, Pacific Opera Project. With its success, Music Director Stephen Karr and Director/Designer Josh Shaw have no doubt cemented their fan base's trust – now willing and just as happy to be plunged into troubled waters, as sent soaring into a night of kicky fun.
With The Turn of the Screw, POP seals its place as a welcome addition to Los Angeles-area music community, reaffirming that "size isn't everything" and that it deserves to be judged as a peer alongside larger and longer established groups. The committed effort and inventiveness invested by all concerned in this production returns ample and lingering musical and dramatic satisfaction. Wider attention should be paid to POP and these performers in future.
...a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears. The supernatural and heartbreaking tableaux that are created during the show are beautifully conceived, making the frantic fear felt by the living even more palpable. One would find it difficult not be engaged in this production.
Director Josh Shaw tenders a tightly directed show, perfectly suited to conductor Stephen Karr’s well-harnessed, nine-piece orchestra. The orchestra pit’s sign, “home for the musically disturbed” is a nice touch... the ample nine-piece orchestra and 31-member cast and chorus...when in full-voice... literally thunders through the intimate theater. The whole production, in fact, is bloody good, seasonal fun.
...a revival that stays true to the source and is absolutely mesmerizing in its craftsmanship... this Todd works wonders with a small stage, and the large chorus, like the orchestra, helps give it a big-production feel... this is dark stuff, but when it’s as superbly staged as Pacific Opera’s production, it’s mesmerizing.
Kurt Gardner, blogcritics.com
Le nozze di Figaro
...only two opera companies in all of the Greater Los Angeles area dare to perform opera as a living art: Long Beach Opera and the up-and-coming Pacific Opera Project. “The Marriage of Figaro” by way of “Scarface,” with a dash of “Goodfellas.” I can already hear the pulse of some of the more traditional-minded opera fans out there growing faint. But hold on to your monocle. POP managed to adroitly underline the timeless relevance of both music and plot with a sense of zaniness and danger by their tony downtown colleagues.
The Marriage of Figaro... is a jewel, due to outrageous creative directing of Josh Shaw, Artistic Director, vibrant musical directing of Stephen Karr, Musical Director, and unbridled singing and comedic talents of two complete casts. I can say there is in this company a steady stream of American performers who are often overlooked at bigger venues in favor of bringing in better-known international names. There is an easy chemistry and cameraderie at POP which can be counted on...
...there is never a dull moment... (POP has)...once again put together an entertaining, accessible and affordable operatic production. It is impressive in its scale, sometimes putting more than twenty talented singers on the stage with multiple and complex set changes. A comic and musical delight, Pacific Opera Project’s production of The Marriage of Figaro does full justice to Mozart’s genius.
Cosi fan tutte
Pacific Opera Project is to be commended for bringing Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte to the LA stage in such an accessible production. With tickets costing $15-$35, opera has not been this affordable in years. Shaw’s hilarious interpretation, coupled with his cast’s evident talent for comedy, makes Cosi fan tutte a laugh-out-loud show that is as cathartic as it is entertaining. Add to that Mozart’s lyrical melodies and the cast’s skilled operatic voices and you have a recipe for phenomenal success.
We have seen this masterpiece done by bigger companies with bigger orchestras weighted down ... and the opera seemed to drag. But this production is fun, light, and wonderful all the way through. The performers are all pitch perfect ... it is amazing how well the Mozart piece embeds itself into the Civil War southern culture. Debutantes are perfect descriptions of the young ingénues, and the superficialities of the social mores at that time coincides with Mozart’s silliness. There were many big laughs throughout, something not too common in opera.
Trouble in Tahiti
I’m glad to say that Pacific Opera Project, under the direction of Josh Shaw (who also designed the delightful sets), truly nailed a piece that is musically complicated, to say the least... a successful evening: certainly one that has whetted my appetite. I’m not a huge opera fan, but nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what they do with Don Giovanni.
The remarkable thing about this small production is that, playing where it did, in a small local park in an intimate theater with about sixty audience members, both Howard and I were absolutely charmed by this theatrical experience in way that, after so many years of professional theater and opera, one begins to forget is at the heart of the art... this smaller production seemed somehow to get at the very heart of Bernstein’s simple two-piece operatic melodrama.