One of the more interesting shows we go to every year is the culmination of the Advanced Artists summer session at OperaWorks (FB). We saw this year’s show last Sunday; the writeup has been delayed due to my preoccupation with the “map project” for my highway pages (this is where I’m adding maps for each highway to that highway’s pages; I’m up to Route 228, as of the time of posting).
Back to Operaworks. Operaworks is a program for up and coming opera singers. They all know how to sing, but being a successful performer in the world of Opera involves much more. Operaworks teaches them that “much more”. It teaches them the business of opera; it also teach them how to perform and interact as a character on the stage. The program that we see is the culmination of that teaching. The class works together to pick a theme for the show. They then create their characters, determine their interactions, and select arias that convey the message of that interaction. These arias are rarely from the same show or the same composer. The result is a new 3-act opera crafted from a mish-mash of arias, with a plot that is often some pastiche of current culture. The performers seem to be having great fun with this creation; it is far from your normal staid opera.
I am certain that the theme for this year’s show was crafted around the class makeup: 24 girls, 1 guy. What better to parody than “The Bachelor”. In this case, it was a web series called “Cow Country Bachelor”, where a single guy, Vinnie Mahal, was the target for a lot of wannabees. The three acts all related to the show: The first act was at the regional auditions for the show; the second act was at a training facility for drag queens being used by the show; the third act was at Vinnie’s mansion where he was making the final selections. As for the title? Instead of a rose, he gives a “golden lasso”.
The characters reflected the creativity of the artists. Here’s a typical character bio to give you an idea:
Gwendolyn Gray is a thirty year old woman in mid-life crisis. She is klutzy, chatty, and unobservant. Her occupation as a chicken sexer is quite demanding, yet she finds time to attend every speed dating event in town. Her biggest fear is matching her clothing day to day.
This year’s show was quite entertaining.
In the first act, we are introduced to a number of different characters who want to be on the show, as well as the producer and wrangler, and a videographer. Memorable characters were Lou Ann, a character who entered the competition drunk; Kathy “Honey” Fayette, who keeps trying to get on the show; and Chastity Bliss White, who had the most unique look of the various characters. Memorable performers, a week out, were Alexandra Logue, Julia Gmeiner, and Suzanne Ramo. Best bios were Harvey Wendell and Angelina Bacciagalupe. Performers, their characters, and their arias were as follows (in performance order); the pianist was Douglas Sumi (FB) (Harvey Wendell):
- Kaitlyn York (FB) (Genevieve Bryant): “Chacun á son goût” | Die Fledermaus | Johann Strauss II
- Alexandra Logue (FB, IG) (Lou Ann): “Mein Herr Marquis” | Die Fledermaus | Johann Strauss II
- Ariana Iniguez (FB) (Linda Maye): “Tu pupila es azul” | Joaquin Turina
- Suzanne Ramo (FB) (Angelina Bacciagualupe): “Jewel Song” | Faust | Charles Gounod
- Geovanna Nichols-Julien (FB, IG) (Kathy “Honey” Fayette): “Sveglatevi nel core” | Giulio Cesare | G. F. Handel
- Phoebe Gildea (FB) (Joelle “Jo” Rackham): “What Good Would the Moon Be?” | Street Scene | Kurt Weill
- Sara Scott (FB) (Kitty June Dale): “Stizzoso mil stizzozo” | La serva padrone | G. B. Pergolesi
- Haley Bryant (FB) (Barbie Horseshoe): “Tiger! Wetze nur” | Zaide | W. A. Mozart
- Jacqueline Hale (FB) (Bettie Mae Dillard): “V’adoro pupille” | Giulio Cesare | G. F. Handel
- Julia Gmeiner (FB) (Chastity Bliss White): “Caro Nome” | Rigoletto | Guiseppe Verdi
In the second act, we are at a boot camp for another set of contestants. Memorable characters were Myra Francis Walker, who kept needing higher and higher shoes until she was on stilts; Gwendolyn Gray, who has a hilarious sequence involving waxing; and Dorie Galford, who keeps going after the shoes. Memorable performers were: Gemma Balinbin, Olivia Hacker, and Nina Polachek. Best bios were Linda and Myra Francis Walker. Performers, their characters, and their arias were as follow (in performance order); the pianist was Michelle Alexander (FB) (Sergeant Senta):
- Jennifer Glidden (FB) (Lady Marmalaide): “Dich teure M’halle” | Trannhäuser | Richard Wagner
- Katie Wick (FB) (Pamela Vixon): “Art is Calling for Me” | The Enchantress | Victor Herbert
- Erika Walker (FB) (Dorie Galford): “Smanie implacabili” | Cosi fan tutte | W. A. Mozart
- Gemma Balinbin (FB) (Myra Francis Walker): “Quando m’en vo'” | La Bohème | Giacomo Puccini
- Carline Waugh (FB) (Gertrude Prisim): “Balletella” | Pagliacci | Ruggero Leoncavallo
- Amy Kuefler (FB) (Blaire Dylan): “Da tempeste il legno infranto” | Giulio Cesare | G. F. Handel
- Olivia Hacker (FB) (Gwendolyn Gray): “Piangerò” | Giulio Cesare | G. F. Handel
- Daniela Camilleri (FB) (Mimi Ann Miller): “Donde lieta” | La Bohème | Giacomo Puccini
- Katherine Eckard (FB) (Patricia Dowdy): “I was standing in the garden” | Trouble in Tahiti | Leonard Bernstein
- Nina Polachek (FB) (Linda): “So anch’io la virtù magica” | Don Pasquale | Gaetano Donizetti
In the third and final act, we get to meet the bachelor. We also meet a bunch of injured and bruised contestants, as well as the one woman that our bachelor was hoping would show up. Memorable characters were Clara Belle, who had anger management problems; Nina Mae, the woman of Vinnie’s desire; and Charlotte Ann Weathersby, who had the freedom to speak up. Memorable performers were Vinell Mahal, and Nicole Anderson. Best bios were Charlotte Ann Weathersby and Clara Belle. Performers, their characters, and their arias were as follows; the pianist was again Michelle Alexander (FB) (Sergeant Senta):
- Vineel Mahal (FB) (Vinnie Mahal): “Lonely House” | Street Scene | Kurt Weill
- Karen Notovitz (FB, IG) (Tanya Kuznetsov): “O luce di anima” | Linda di Chamounix | Gaetano Donizetti
- Elizabeth Dickerson (FB, IG) (Tina Louise): “Non so piú” | Le nozze di Figaro | W. A. Mozart
- Kelly Timko (FB) (Clara Belle): “Glitter and Be Gay” | Candide | Leonard Bernstein
- Nicole Anderson (FB) (Charlotte Ann Weathersby): “Como scoglio” | Cosi fan tutte | W. A. Mozart
- Cecelia McKinley (FB) (Cecilia Jessup): “Va, l’error mio palesa” | Mitridate, re di Ponto | W. A. Mozart
- Rhiannon Vaughn (FB, IG) (Baby Nelly Ballou): “Tu che di gel sei cinta” | Turandot | Giacomo Puccini
- Anna Woiwood (FB, ★FB) (Nina Mae): “Nina’s Aria” | The Seagull | Thomas Pasatieri
- Josephyne Santos (FB, IG) (Martha Joe): “I Want Magic” | A Streetcar Named Desire | Andrè Previn
- Cast: “Hab’ mir’s gelobt” | Der Rosenkavalier | Richard Strauss
Overall, these summer Operaworks shows are entertaining, and you get to see singers learning the business of being characters. It is remarkable to watch. It is also a great way to get a taste of Opera without paying the big bucks for a 3 hour show. I look foward to next year.
Production credits: Eli Vinnaneuva (FB, ★FB) [Director / Co-creator]; Ann Baltz (FB), Laura Parker (FB) [Co-Creators]; Michelle Alexander (FB), Kevin Bylsma (FB), and Douglas Sumi (FB) [Music Directors]. Ann Baltz (FB) is the founder and artistic director of Operaworks.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
The last weekend of July is currently open; it turns out the Muse/ique (FB) show is not that interesting. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.
Looking forward to September: The first weekend of September is currently open. The second has a hold date for I Dig Rock and Roll Music at the Rubicon in Ventura. The third weekend has Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Friday, but the weekend itself is open. The fourth weekend has Rope at Actors Co-op (FB), and the fifth is currently open. Looks like I need to book some dates in September! October is equally open, with only two weekends currently booked, and one with a hold date.
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.