PopOpera posted perfect 10s Thursday Night in Mohawk College’s Mcintyre Theatre.
Ten beautiful young singers, 10 fabulous voices and 10 fine actors. Don’t take my word for it. Go see and hear for yourselves. They make up the cast of next Thursday’s production of BrottOpera’s Marriage of Figaro. Same place same time. Set aside at good half hour for a completey shambolic parking fiasco and you’ll be fine.
Jan Vaculik will be Figaro, Andrea Nunez Susanna, the Count is Christopher Dunham, Natalya Gennadi the Countess, Amanda Fink Cherubino, Edward Hanlon Bartolo, Danielle Vaillancourt Marcellina, Mathieu Abel Basilio/Curzio Elizabeth Polese Barbarina and Joel Allison Antonio.
While rehearsing for next week’s fully staged opera, this lovely cast slipped seamlessly from role to role, aria to aria, opera to opera, and from century to century in an entertainment that was brilliantly conceived and executed and shining with an absolutely sizzling gusto.
I really don’t want to pick out highlights. But I guess I needs must.
Christopher Dunham’s Per me giunto e il di supremo from Verdi’s Don Carlo could have graced any opera house anywhere. Andrea Nunez’ Je suis Titania from Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon opened the proceedings with a blinding brilliance. If I were a singer I would have a clause in every contract banning me from having to follow Nunez on stage – ever. Tatyana’s Letter Song from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin proved Natalya Gennadi an artist who has arrived in no uncertain terms.
I hated doing that because I will never forget Danielle Vaillancourt’s I am easily assimilated from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide as long as I have even a minimum of faculties left to me. That also goes for Edward Hanlon’s Bottom’s Dream from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And I could just go on and on.
Choirs have competitions so we know that, much to many Hamiltonians’ shock and disbelief, The Hamilton Children’s Choir is, at last count, the third finest children’s choir in the world and 7th best choir period. They have racked up the scores to prove it.
Orchestra’s do not have such mano a mano set dust ups.
But as I listened in shock and awe to the National Academy Orchestra fly through the Prelude to Act 1 from Bizet’s Carmen and the precision of ensemble and solo brilliance displayed in the Bootlegger’s Tarantella from John Estacio’s Filumena I wondered where I could hear a finer young orchestra than this edition of the National Academy. Both were breathtaking and they are only just beginning. Just as there is a Mach designation for jet speed, there should be a Brott mark for tempi. The NAO is a Rolls Royce and Brott seemed to be revisiting his youth cruising with the Northern Symphonia in that Bentley. One more thing. Popera in the beginning, now PopOpera were conceived to introduce non opera lovers to the fun and frolic of opera. Won’t happen without surtitles. No matter how brilliant, no one can bring coherence to the likes Sola, Sola in buio loco from Don Giovanni or Siete voi from La Cenerentola without them.

by Hugh Fraser, former Hamilton Spectator Music Critic

July 8, 2016
“POPOPERA”; the NAO’s program-design evolves
by Ontario Arts Review • Concert, Opera, Orchestra
Review by Danny GaisinDanny & Terry ’05

The concept of an accepted program of familiar arias from classical opera presented in a concert format has faded into a same old, same old listing of ‘Nessun dorma; Habanera; “Au fond du temple Sainte” and the flower duet from Lakmé, usually with the invariable divas & divos. The National Academy Orchestra’s Brott summer Festival has pushed the envelope. Less familiar arias; new voices and program notes defining the actual pieces made this year’s edition a novel experience, especially for aficionados of the genre.

The NAO is a rather unique organization that chooses recent musicological graduates that are then coupled with orchestral section principals on summer hiatus; thus learning the practical in’s & outs of an instrumental career. Having an NAO listing in one’s C.V. almost guarantees professional opportunities; somewhat like a Sheridan College graduation in theatre or creative visual effects. Starting with an almost completely new assemblage is in itself a challenge and over the years there has been some slow starts…lately the technical and cohesion is top drawer from the get-go.
The program did offer some Bizet, but in an orchestral mode that opened the concert. Soloist Andrea Nuñez then introduced the audience to Titania that ‘Philine’ sings in Mignon. The lady is a dynamo with a face that is all smiles…as is her soprano voice. Then Mathieu Abel presented a tender expression of ‘My treasure’ (il mio Tesoro) from Giovanni. Bizet’s introduction of the charismatic bullfighter ‘Escamillo Cassius Clay’; was sung by Joel Allison and a voluptuous trio of Fink; Nuñez & Vaillancourt that can only be described as FUN.
Britten’s operatic take on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream has its comedy relief from ‘Bottom, the weaver who is also the model for today’s ‘Transformers’ toys! Telling about the character’s dream was portrayed as well as sung by Edward Hanlon. The audience giggled, guffawed and finally drowned out the aria with laughter.
Mozart’s Magic Flute (Zauberflőte) is a personal favorite (next costume party invitation: – we’re Papagano & Papagana!). When Jan Vaculike gave us Papagano’s desire for a girl or even a little wife (real bliss), it seemed a perfect underscore for us Gaisins actually celebrating fifty-three years of the same declared ‘bliss’, last night! The segment closed with another Don Giovanni sextet by the same composer in which 2 Donna’s, a Don, and three others hear Elvira sing about being alone in this dark Place. It isn’t; they aren’t and none are Giovanni. to tell more might spoil Act II. The sestetto again tried their best to convey the opera’s moment. Certainly a challenge, but almost accomplished.
Post-interval, Christopher Dunham sang Rodrigo’s ‘Per giunto è il di supremo’, his auto-obituary prior to his execution. A melancholy and sorrowful moment, but a dramatic aria well-emphasized and sung. Then for a change of pace; Amanda Fink gave a cutesy rendition of Barbiere’s ‘Una Voce poco fa’; Rosina’s aria about how affected the singer is by Lindoro. Those familiar with the libretto will realize this Act I, scene II piece let’s one realize that Rosie is a very early women’s libber. Another sestetto from La Cenerentola (‘’Cinderella” with a wicked stepfather & earrings instead of slippers); an excerpt from Bernstein’s Candide – a satirical travelogue; and finally; HMS Pinafore’s “He’s an English Man”. Aside; many years ago, when this scribe was a racing yachtsman of some note; wifey referred to the operetta’s advice “♫ Stay close to your desk, and NEVER go to sea; and you will be a captain in the Queen’s Navy ♪ ”. She dedicated the column to yours truly! The encores were an audience-involved ‘Va pensiero‘; the Hebrew Slaves’ theme from Nabucco that received popularity as an anthem for Italian unity; and the requisite Brindisi (Libiamo from Traviata) again with audience participation.
There were only a few opportunities to hear the NAO musicians, two of which were conducted by apprentice Karl Hirzer who possesses not only methodological talent but has an amazing confidence on the podium. Next Thursday (7/14th @ McIntyre Hall, Mohawk) the NAO will stage ‘Nozze di Figaro’ Mozart’s 1786 opera Buffa. Hint: – if the aria ‘Voi che sapete’ sounds familiar, change the phrasing and sing ‘Joy to the World’… merry Christmas all