Did you hear about how Donald Trump, two Sunday’s ago, took pictures of his private parts and sent them to his gay lover while at a campaign rally? I know, I was there. Evidence, yet again, that Trump had actually sold his soul to the Devil.
(waits for a pause)
OK, it wasn’t really Donald Trump. It was Donald Trump as seen through the eyes of opera singers. Perhaps I should explain.
One of our treats every summer is attending the performance component of the Advanced Artists Program of Operaworks (FB). The Advanced Artist Program is for operatic performers in graduate school or beyond, who want to work in-depth on their repertoire – dramatically, musically, and physically. It’s goal is to teach the performers the “other” side of opera beyond singing. In particular, the not only learn how to address the business and marketing side, but they learn how to act and move on stage as actors and actresses — how to relate to other characters as characters, not just stand in front of a piano and sing. The program culminates with two performance shows of improvised opera. The show consists of three acts, not necessarily related. For each act, the students pick a location and come up with one paragraph bios of their characters and their relationship to the other characters in their act. They then pick arias, from both operas and other musical theatre, for each character to relate to another character. Improvising dialogue, they now put these characters and arias into a show. Here’s an example bio or two from this year’s program:
- Ivanka Trump (Zeledón) is an American businesswoman, who is dedicated to making America great again, one shoe at a time. She is a staunch supporter of her father, whenever iti s most convenient to her.
- A dental hygienist, Stephanie Hollenberg has been working for Daughters & Sons Dentistry for six years, where she instigated the increasingly popular “Tooth Fairy Tuesdays.” In her free time, she enjoys frequenting wine bars and shopping at the Container Store.
This year, the three locations chosen were a Subway Station in New York at 4am, an Art Museum, and a Trump Rally at said art museum. There was a connected story line. In Act I, they were getting the area ready for a Trump rally, when some Trump workers indicated they had something on the Donald. Act II focused on how the Devil was controlling the art in the art museum. Act III was the aforementioned Trump rally, where the aforementioned sexting occurred.
It is hard to relate the full details of the story, but here’s a summary of the singers, characters, and arias, in order:
Act One: An Abandoned NYC Subway Station at 4 A.M.
|Singer / Character||Aria||Opera | Composer|
|Amy Selby (FB), an enthusiastic, youthful hipster, a techie, interested in jamming at NYCRavers events.||Je veux vivre||Roméo Et Juliette | Charles-François Gounod|
|/||Emerald Lessley (FB), a domestic engineer with an Etsy business.||Come scoglio||Cosí Fan Tutte | W. A. Mozart|
|Colin Campbell (FB), a TMZ sound engineering in a troubled marriage to Emerald.||En fermant les yeux||Manon | Jules Massenet|
|/||Glenn Fernandez (FB), a promising accountant at Trump Towers, recently let go during a cost cutting attempt.||Si, ritrovarla io giuro||La Cenerentola | Gioacchino Rossini|
|\||Jessine Johnson (FB), a resident of the Columbus Circle subway station.||Regnava nel silenzio||Lucia Di Lammermoor | Gaetano Donizetti|
|Maggie Finnegan (FB), part of Trump’s Secret Service detail, into folk music.||I never travel without one||Postcard From Morocco | Dominick Argento|
|Stephanie Hollenberg (FB), a dental hygienist dressed as a tooth fairy.||Piangerò la sorte mia||Giulio Cesare | George Frideric Händel|
|/||Jon Ellis (FB), an Exec VP of Corporate Finance for Trump Towers Inc.||Ch’ella mì creda||La Fanciulla Del West | Giacomo Puccini|
|\||Morgan Harrington (FB), Ellis’ executive assistant and secret lover.||Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata||Don Giovanni | W. A. Mozart|
|Margaret Izard, one of the cities finest janitors.||Chacun à son goût||Die Fledermaus | Johann Strauss|
Act Two: An Art Museum above the Subway Station at 4 A.M.
|Singer / Character||Aria||Opera | Composer|
|Shannon McAleb (FB), who studied art at Columbia University, but is now working restoring the great works of art in NYC.||Chi il bel sogno di Doretta?||La Rondine | Giacomo Puccini|
|Aphrodite of Arles (Catherine Leech (FB)), full of love, passion, and desires intimacy with the Devil.||Non so più||Le Nozze Di Figaro | W. A. Mozart|
|Sophie (Yoo Ri Clark (FB)), a socialite admired for her timeless beauty and elegance.||Glitter & Be Gay||Candide | Leonard Bernstein|
|Bacchus (Adam Cromer (FB)), the God of Feats, of Wine, and of Pleasure.||Giunto sul passo estremo||Mefistofele | Arrigo Boito|
|The Devil (Vanja Schoch (FB)), the oldest enemy of humanity.||Endless Pleasure||Semele | George Frideric Händel|
|/||Rick (Wes Hunter (FB)), a homeless man who has lost everything.||Un’aura amorosa||Così Fan Tutte| W. A. Mozart|
|\||The Degas Ballerina (Hillary Esqueda (FB)), who left the loves of her life to be here.||Who Is There to Love Me?||A Hand of Bridge | Samuel Barber|
|Camila (Erin Moran/FB), the Spanish Dancer in El Jaleo.||Près des ramparts de Séville||Carmen | Georges Bizet|
|Katya (Ashley Biehl (FB)), the soul trapped in El Lissitzky’s “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge”||Volta la terrea||Un Ballo in Maschera | Giuseppe Verdi|
|Lady with a Helmet of Hair (Claire Choquette (FB)), from Picasso’s Blue Period||Illustratevi o cieli||Il Ritorno D’ulisse In Patria | Claudio Monteverdi|
|ALL||Chi il bel sogno di Doretta?||La Rondine | Giacomo Puccini|
Act Three: The Next Morning at the Art Museum
|Singer / Character||Aria||Opera | Composer|
|Jen (Zen Wu (FB)), representing CNN and the newest member of the Trump Press Pool, looking for a story amidst the gossip||Ah, fors ‘è lui||La Traviata | Giuseppe Verdi|
|Aimee Bobbins (Mackenzie Rogers (FB)), an avid NRA enthusiast and conservative voter.||Nobles seigneur, salut!||Les Hugoneuots | Giacomo Meyerbeer|
|Kat Smith (Katrina Deininger (FB)), an advocate for peace in the US and worldwide, who wants to give hugs to everyone.||Du gai soleil||Werther | Jules Massenet|
|Kevin Werther (Kimberly Hann/FB), a loyal member of the Trump security detail, faithful to the Trump family.||Hence, Iris hence away||Semele | George Frideric Händel|
|/||Julio Ramirez (José Mongelós (FB)), Trump’s official hair masseur, Gertlestein’s assistant.||Dies Bildnis ist bezaubern schön||Die Zauberflöte | W. A. Mozart|
|\||Lauren (Lauren James (FB)), a well-known TMZ reporter.||Il est doux, il est bon||Hérodiade | Jules Massenet|
|/||Sarah Coulter (Jessie Shulman (FB)), manager of the Trump campaign since April 2016||Svegliatevi nel core||Giulio Cesare | George Frideric Händel|
|\||Rhonda Gertlestein (Kelly Ferguson (FB)), Trump’s celebrity hairstylist.||Io son l’umile ancella||Adriana Lecouvveur | Francesco Ciléa|
|Ashley Phelps (Ashley McKinstry/FB), great-granddaughter of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.||I Want Magic||A Streetcar Named Desire | André Previn|
|Ivanka Trump (Isabella Zeledón), Trump’s daughter.||Ci’io mai vi possa||Siroe Re Di Persia | George Frideric Händel|
|Donald Trump (Marcy McKee (FB)), a wonderful, amazing entrepreneur||Dich theure Halle||Trannhäuser | Richard Wagner|
|ALL||Libiamo ne’lieti calici||La Traviata | Giuseppe Verdi|
Overall, the event was very entertaining, and the singers not only performed well, but they interacted with other players well. This was especially true in the first act.
Technical Credits: Stage Direction: Zeffin Quinn Hollis (FB). Movement Coach: Dr. Paula Thomson. Improvisation Coach: Laura Parker. Artistic Director: Ann Baltz (FB). Additional faculty and Operaworks staff is listed on the Operaworks site.
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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and I plan to renew my mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Past subscriptions have included The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). 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.
Upcoming Shows: August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).
Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.