Opera Review: Opera becomes a family affair
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | January 07,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Christopher Besch, center, has the lead role in the Opera Theatre of Weston’s production of “Noye’s Fludde.” At left Peggie Telscher plays the role of Mrs. Noye.
“Noye’s Fludde,” or “Noah’s Flood” in modern English, is hardly anybody’s idea of grand opera. And, only an hour long, fun and full of kids — though it is also full of fine music — that’s just the way composer Benjamin Britten meant it to be.
With the audience invited to join in for three hymns, it’s a real family affair.
Opera Theatre of Weston opened a delightfully charming, visually beautiful and often very funny production of “Noye’s Fludde” on Sunday at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre. In addition to school performances, the remaining public performances are at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12 and 13, at Weston Playhouse.
The English Britten (1913-1976), one of the 20th century’s foremost opera composers, based this 1957 opera on the Biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, but as told in an early 15th century mystery play from the “Chester Mystery Cycle.” These tales were meant to illustrate the Bible with very human, very accessible and very entertaining characters.
The story is as simple as it is familiar. God, heard as a voice from Heaven, intends to smite the earth of humans as they have most severely disappointed him. The devout Noah and his family are called upon to save the species from 40 days and 40 nights of torrential rains and floods. He is to build a boat to save the animals, a pair from each species, to repopulate the earth.
Of, course, not everyone believes Noah — particularly his wife, who refuses to go — and therein lies the fun.
In addition to the humor, “Noye’s Fludde” is made both compelling and entertaining by Britten’s superficially attractive but rich and deep music and colorful staging.
The Opera Theatre of Weston production, seen at Saturday’s dress rehearsal at the Paramount, succeeded on all three counts. Directed by Diana Stugger with choreography by Ashley Hensel-Browning, the performance was a grand spectacle. And the music, conducted by Angela Hines-Gooch, benefited from some fine professionals as well as some pretty talented kids.
Christopher Besch, a young professional opera singer from Minnesota, anchored the production with his strong and lyrical baritone and authoritative delivery. Stratton mezzo-soprano Peggie Telscher was vocally solid and expressive and a lot of fun as the difficult Mrs. Noah. Steve Stettler, Weston Playhouse’s resident producing director, was quite effective and great fun as the voice of God.
But it was the kids that were the most fun. Teens from the Opera Theatre of Weston’s Youth Chorus played Noah’s sons and their wives with some pretty impressive solos. The multitude of youngsters, playing the animals, created their own beautiful masks and, more importantly, managed Britten’s spicy harmonies quite successfully. Young dancers, playing the raven and the dove sent to look for dry land, proved quite fine.
At Saturday’s dress rehearsals, some glitches — mostly those associated with young casts, like not watching the conductor — were dealt with, but it was clear these young folks were delivering.
The production benefits from unique set — a house that transforms into an ark — created by Putney boat builder Graeme King, augmented by dramatic lighting by David Lane. The 16-piece orchestra of strings, trumpet, recorders, hand bells and percussion, was made up largely of area professionals. But there were several young folk, including a sixth grader, successfully augmenting the percussion section.
Since 2000, Opera Theatre of Weston has been producing opera of quite high quality for and with children and young people. “Noye’s Fludde” continues that tradition.
Opera Theatre of Weston
Opera Theatre of Weston presents “Noye’s Fludde (Noah’s Flood), Benjamin Britten’s children’s opera, at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12 and 13, at Weston Playhouse, Route 100 in Weston. Tickets are $28-$15; call 824-3821, or go online to www.operatheatreofweston.com.