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Shakespeare goes to Tacoma Opera at Young Artist Showcase

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Jan. 28, 2009 at 9:52 am |
January 28, 2009 9:52 am

Wanting some opera to cheer up the winter doldrums? Tacoma Opera is presenting its 7th annual Young Artist Showcase this weekend with an evening of scenes from operas based on Shakespeare. Steamy love scenes from "Romeo and Juliet" segue into comic relief from "Merry Wives of Windsor" in a kind of Shakespeare-goes-to-the-opera mix.

Soprano Megan Chenovick. Photo courtesy Tacoma Opera.

Mezzo Stacey Porter. Photo courtesy Tacoma Opera.

As always, the Showcase features up-and-coming local opera stars: this year, mostly recent Tacoma university graduates. Soprano Megan Chenovick is a UPS grad who just made it to the Met Opera regional competition finals last weekend. Mezzo Stacey Porter is a new mom who’s getting back into singing. Tenor Robert McAulay-Barnts and baritone Jeremy Schilley are both PLU grads.

Baritone Jeremy Schilley. Photo courtesy Tacoma Opera.

Tenor Robert McAulay-Barnts. Photo courtesy Tacoma Opera.

Act I of the Showcase focuses on "Romeo and Juliet,"—mostly operas by Gounod and Bellini, plus Leonard Bernstein’s musical "West Side Story"—while Act II turns comic, with operas based on "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (often written as "Falstaff"—Verdi, of course, but also unknown gems by Nikolai and Salieri.)

As usual, the staging will be minimal, the plotline being a troupe of actors who are rehearsing and playing a Shakespeare show. Says TO director Kathryn Smith: "We start with a bare stage and build it as we go, pulling things out of trunks, bringing in scenery, taking it away. It’s definitely going to be creative."

Part of the fun, of course, is that each composer involved chose to allocate the lead roles to a different voice part. Romeo, for instance, is a tenor in Gounod’s version, a baritone in Bernstein’s, and a mezzo in Bellini’s (yes, a woman—this is called a "pants role," and was pretty common at the time.) In "Merry Wives," roles generally stay with the same singers. But making the most of this identity-chaos, the singers and directors have written a dialogue around it, with actors discussing their own role-switching.

The excerpts will be sung in English, French, and Italian, with projected English translation.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Jan. 31 and 2 p.m. Feb. 1 at Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. Tickets $32. 253-627-7789, 253-591-5894, www.tacomaopera.com

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