Saturday, April 24, 2010

Love is Strange with the HSU Opera Workshop

It’s not your grandfather’s opera. No exaggerated emotions in foreign languages by heavily costumed figures standing around until the fat lady sings. On Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24, the HSU Opera Workshop explores contemporary relationships with selected musical scenes and two short comic operas, including the story of a young man searching for true love at a video dating service.

Test Tube by Milton Granger is a fast-paced comedy about a man and four women of roughly college age. In the guise of “who gets the guy?” they confront real relationship issues, in clever cadences of dialogue as well as song. Kevin (played by James Murphy) sees his fantasies as well as reality acted out by Cassandra Lindop, Chelsea Snyder and Brandy Rose, under the increasingly interested eye of the young woman who runs the video dating service (Jamie Banister.) The comedy is acted as well as sung, with characters on stage at times singing with video images on the screen.

“I think audience members will be pleasantly surprised at what opera can be,” said Opera Workshop artistic director and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington.

Another short opera takes a comic look at where some dubious images of relationships come from: the aptly named soap operas. The melodrama of a love triangle in a hospital operating room is interspersed with manically cheerful singing-and-dancing commercials, in Gallantry: A Soap Opera by Douglass Moore.

This year’s Opera Workshop includes seventeen singers, and most of them combine for “The Little Things You Do Together” from Steven Sonheim’s Company. This song introduces a series of duets from various musicals, all portraying relationships: lovers, friends, business partners, and the unique relationship of Siamese twins.

Some of the musicals sampled are: The Boyfriend, Mame, Hairspray, 110 in the Shade, Sideshow and The Fantasticks.

John Chernoff provides piano accompaniment, and is musical co-directed with Elisabeth Harrington. Cynthia McCloud and Danielle van de Wetering contribute choreography, with costumes by Kevin Sharkey and lighting by Emily Ruebl.

The HSU Opera Workshop performs for two nights: Friday April 23 and Saturday April 24 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Elisabeth Harrington, artistic director; produced by HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye.

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