A Conversation with Opera North
Pamela Pantos, Louis Burkot and Elizabeth Rattigan discuss the
2012 season productions
at the Lebanon Opera House
LEBANON – Opera North is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this summer. The productions selected for this season demon-strate the company's continued commitment to opera, but also include an American musical. In this conversation, Pamela A. Pantos, Executive Director, talks about the decision making process and what influenced the Board and Directors in selecting the shows.
Q: What was the process for choosing the pieces for this Anniversary season?
Pamela: Well, to be honest, Hurricane Irene made part of the decision for us. After a very successful summer (2011), we had packed up all of our costumes, props, furniture, and technical equipment and put it back into storage…just a few days before Irene hit. We lost everything in that space…So, I got together with the Board and Louis Burkot, our Artistic Director, to think about the implications of this loss.
Q: What happened next?
P: We considered the goals of the company, and decided that perhaps it was time to define what we do by performing the repertoire that we do best. The strengths of Opera North are that we hire classically-trained singers from all over the country…We do not use microphones. We have a wonderful professional orchestra…and we collaborate with lots of other Upper Valley Arts organizations.
Q: And this led to…
P: …a decision to do one big operatic piece, two smaller operas, and a piece of classical music theater. The opera is "The Elixir of Love" which is a very funny opera that is affordable from the production standpoint. We have hired phenomenal singers and a terrific stage director. The leading soprano sings at the MET, the tenor has sung this piece all over Europe and is making his American debut with Opera North, and the Stage Director is from New York City Opera.
The two smaller operas are actually collaborations with amazing venues…we are doing Mozart's "The Impresario" at the Hood Museum and excerpts from "The Cunning Little Vixen" by Janáček at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and then putting those two pieces together to create a specially-priced double bill of opera at the Lebanon Opera House. The Opera North Young Artists perform accompanied by a string quartet and two pianos.
Q: What about the musical…isn't this a different direction for the company?
P: We are doing a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I." This came about because of two very real economic factors…one, we lost everything with Irene and two, due to the recession, ticket sales have decreased in the past few years. So, we decided to draw upon the tremendous strengths of the company in terms of singers and orchestra and do a musical in the way that it was originally done.
Most people do not know that many musical roles were sung by famous opera singers like Ezio Pinza because Rodgers and Hammerstein wanted a big, indulgent music experience for the audience…The Stage Director is Catherine Doherty from Northern Stage, who has incredible experience in many genres of theater.
Opera North has done musicals in the past with great success and the Board thought that this was an exciting way to celebrate 30 years, by looking at the past and creating new opportunities for the future. We are reusing a set that had been stored in another location and renting the costumes. The show has very few props and physical needs, but requires a lot of people, so it made sense in terms of the present resources of the company.
Opera North will also have 20 children from throughout the Upper Valley on stage as the Princes and Princesses of Siam. The cast will be close to a hundred by the time we are finished…
Q: Wow! Sounds like there is a lot going on this summer…
P: Yes, there is…Our hope is that there is something for everyone, while ON continues to maintain its high professional standards… We want to make sure that Opera North brings fantastic music and theater to the Upper Valley for years to come.