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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Yost’

About a week ago, I did something funny. I went to a Sing-along concert of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.

It convinced me that an awful lot of people have been in the show at some point in their lives, because many audience members brought dog-eared copies of the libretto — and all of them wore goofy grins on their faces for an hour and a half.

The leads were professionals, or quasi professionals. They dressed in costumes and affected English accents in their speaking roles on a raised platform where the orchestra was. It was nice that they were so professional, but I actually thought it was fun to read how different from performing their daily lives were.

According to the program notes, Thom Kenney (playing our hero Ralph Rackstraw) “has performed in musicals, operas and plays and is a member of the Tanglewood Chorus. He earned an MBA at Notre Dame and was deployed to Afghanistan.”

Beverly St Clair (Cousin Hebe) is a psychiatrist.

Ken Martin (HMS Pinafore’s Captain Corcoran) is a management consultant.

Conductor Alan Yost “is a percussionist and a research aircraft pilot and IT specialist with the US Department of Transportation. His true passion is conducting.”

The story in a nutshell: The captain’s daughter falls for a lowly “tar” (sailor) and plans to elope rather than marry the “ruler of the Queen’s Nav-ee,” the clueless Sir Joseph. The plot is discovered and Rackstraw ordered to a dungeon, when Buttercup, who comes on board periodically to sell notions and who has been hinting darkly about a desperate secret, announces that she was once nurse to Captain Corcoran and Ralph Rackstraw simultaneously and “mixed those babies up.”

So their social positions being suddenly switched, it’s OK for the new Captain Rackstraw to marry beneath him. Corcoran, now a lowly tar, decides to marry Buttercup, and no one seems to notice that she must be nearly 60 to his 40 (we are talking Gilbert & Sullivan, after all).

The young woman bouncing enthusiastically in the seat next to me had delightful hand gestures for every phrase she sang.

And did I mention that I sang the role of Sir Joseph’s Cousin Hebe when I was in junior high, which was long enough ago that television actress Tyne Daly, best known for talking tough on cop shows, played the ingenue.

Photo: borrowed from the Pittsburgh Savoyards by way of showbiz.com

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Saturday night we saw a splendid production of Puccini’s opera La Bohème at a $25-a-seat benefit for the Friends of the Performing Arts. Pretty amazing to have fully staged opera professionally sung with orchestra accompaniment someplace other than the big city.

Robin Farnsley, who sang the role of the Bohemian seamstress suffering from tuberculosis, was the heart and soul of the production. I blogged about her before, here. Not only was her singing exquisite, but her acting was unusually sensitive and subtle for opera.

But all the leads were great in this tale of poverty and the artistic spirit: Ray Bauwens as as Mimi’s love, Rodolfo; Tim Wilfong as a delightful Marcello; and Sarah Vincelett as the thoroughly convincing coquette, Musetta. Also worthy of mention were Michael Prichard, Thomas Dawkins, and Miles Rind.

I loved the naturalistic translation, shown in supertitles.

Alan Yost conducted, Kathy Lague was stage director, and Paula Eldridge was chorus master. As far as I know, everyone donated their time to support the performing arts in Concord.

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Gian Carlo Menotti composed Amahl and the Night Visitors for an NBC Christmas show in 1951. He was under deadline and drawing a blank when the painting “The Adoration of the Magi” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art sparked his childhood memories of three kings who visit Italian children with gifts.

I have seen the operetta and listened to the recording many times. It takes only the first few bars and the lovely oboe representing the shepherd boy’s pipe for me to bring out the tissues and start crying and smiling all the way through.

A production today at the Friends of the Performing Arts in Concord was excellent. Kim Lamoureux took the role of Amahl. Robert Runck was stage director. Robin Farnsley was music director. Farnsley also was a breathtaking Mother of Amahl. Her anguish in the scene where her fear for her son overcomes her is heartbreaking as she inches toward the gold of the sleeping kings.

“All that gold! All that gold!
I wonder if rich people know what to do with their gold?
Do they know how a child could be fed? Do rich people know?”

You may read the whole script of this short operetta here. And there are lots of snippets on YouTube. I include one from the 50s.

Update: December 22, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Amahl and the Night Visitors, with soloists Julia Shneyderman, Robin Farnsley, Ray Bauwens, Brad Amidon, Thomas Dawkins, and Michael Prichard. Chorus and orchestra conducted by Alan Yost,  Tickets $20 adults/$10 students. Call 978 369-7911 or buy on-line.

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