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Subject: In Series OBERON opens in DC or von Weber gone crazy (6-10-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 12 Jun 2017 11:42:56 -0400

text/plain (78 lines)

Saturday night was the opening of Carl Maria von Weber's rarely performed romantic opera OBERON at the IN SERIES at Gala Hispanic Theater here in DC. In Series is known for its "pocket opera" and updated productions, but instead we had here a chamber orchestra of 15 across the front of the stage with a raised platform for the performers at the rear and a curtained area behind that looking almost like a puppet theater stage, but periodically opened and closed to reveal scenes as hey were "created" by Oberon. Director Nick Olcott has recreated the confusing three act piece about a medieval Crusader saving his beloved from the Saracens in Baghdad to a two act comic piece that will entertain everyone and truly please with talented singers not to mention that gorgeous music.

Director/Writer(English libretto)-Nick Olcott

Music Director/Conductor-Stanley Thurston

Sets-Jonathan Dahm Robertson

Costumes-Donna Breslin

Oberon-Aurelio Dominguez

Puck-Katherine Fili

Rezia-Cara gonzalez

Sir Huon-Sammy Huh

Sherasmin-Alex Albuquerque

Floria-Anamer Castrello-

Mermaid/Titania-Laynee Dell Woodward

Mermaid-Louisa Waycott

Pirate-Simon Charette

Ensemble-Emily Casey, Teresa Ferrara, Patricia Portillo, Louisa Waycott, Laynee Dell Woodward, CJ David, Nick Carratura, Simon Charette, Elliot Matheny

The premise here is that Titania is upset with Oberon who must create a new story of love for her after the disappointment in A Mid-Summer Night's Dream; she likes happy endings without magic interference. Our Puck was in green tights with an elfin feathered cap looking a bit like Peter Pan and the fairies/elves were in gauzy costumes with fairy lights on their bodies and heads with some in semi-pirate outfits giving the entire work a very Peter Pan/Captain Hook look.

Oberon was dressed more akin to Shakespeare and was actually trying to write to the story of the opera for Titania to gain her back.

There were tons of jokes using Shakespearean titles such as "as you like it," which got guffaws from the audience, but were quite cute.

When Puck refers to the calamity of Mid-Summer Night's Dream Oberon calls it "Mid-Summer Nightmare."

In Oberon's opening "Fatal vow" we learn that he has promised Titania a good love story and asks Puck for help.

One of the fairy/pirate guys is the person who lifts the red velvet curtain from the rear stage area and reveals first the lovers, Rezia and Huon each having their own dream which Oberon intermingles so they "fall in love."  She is trapped in a cave by a dragon and he sleeps as Oberon writes the story.  We also meet their servants, Sherasmin & Floria, he in a long smock and floppy hat (think pizza guy), and they are truly wonderful comedic characters so well portrayed by Ms. Castrello & Mr. Albuquerque.

Huon is in a medieval tunic with lion shield on it, a long red cape with sparkly clasp and carries a long sword while Rezia sports a tiara and a somewhat medieval damsel in distress gown.  We get an ensemble piece where the two tenors sing out beautifully.

While all the singers offered up some superb talent it was indeed the two romantic leads, both making their debuts with In Series this season, were very special. Sammy Huh offered a super sweet tenor with amazing high notes in a treacherous role which is one of the reasons this opera is so rarely seen.  Cara Gonzalez is so secure in a role that starts off with coloratura, moves to an awesome duet for her and her maid, Floria with a quasi-cabaletta, "Oh my wild exciting soul..." and then completely changes for Act II to dramatic Wagnerian style! Our night fights the dragon, saves the maiden and we are about to have a happy ending as the two couples sail for home "Over the dark blue waters," only for Oberon to declaim, "Shipwreck!" as the curtain falls.

Act II has Puck question his master's logic, but Oberon insists it's all to impress Titania. The elves/fairies sing from the balcony above left and right with Puck, "Spirits of air..." as he invokes a storm (of course, only after a Tempest joke!).  We find Huon hovering over a passed out Rezia on a desert isle for his aria, "Ruler of this awful hour!" which is followed (after she wakes) by Rezia's aria (the most famous in the work), "Ocean thou mighty monster..." which Ms. Gonzalez conquered with the same agility she did her coloratura in Act I. This role is ALL over the place! She declares they are saved as a ship approaches, of course, it is a pirate ship and she is surreptitiously abducted!

Mermaids with long blue and gold hair appear on each side balcony left and right (their hair hanging down the balcony; they have matching sequined tops--we cannot see below their waists) for an interlude.

We are then taken to the pirates' island where Sherasmin and Floria have been shipwrecked. They sing of their homeland in a spectacular piece that has Ms. Castrello dropping from super high mezzo head voice to so deep in her chest it became hysterical. We all loved and reveled in it! Huon arrives to rescue them with a super high tenor aria, "I revel in hope and joy again..." only to be followed by Rezia's somber "Mourn thou, poor heart..." as she fears the pirates will kill her. Despite the fact that Oberon wants to avoid magic, he gives Huon a magic horn to make the pirates dance; Puck alludes to Magic Flute even before we get here, and the audience was in hysterics as the pirates dance (kudos to horn player, Jason Wright).

Titania arrives thoroughly thrilled with Oberon's work and everyone lives happily ever after.

If you like rare works, a fun night at the opera and hearing superb voice, especially new ones, catch Oberon this week as there are 2 more performances on Saturday evening June 17 and Sunday matinee June 18th. ( ) (disclaimer:I proudly sit on the board of this group!)

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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