Venue: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
Dates: 1-4 March 2001
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Nancy Hermiston directs and Jesse Read conducts this interesting and exciting contemporary opera. While the play from which the opera is taken is set in New England in the late seventeenth century, this production is set in no specific time period, the costumes being a colourful combination of many styles, symbolically reflecting many facets of the human condition. The mobile set is also timeless and contains nothing that might anchor it in a given era. Both are designed by Alessia Carpoca.
Robert Ward, the composer, who was present at the opening night, has written a very complex score that both reflects the personality of the opera's characters and the turbulent, troubled atmosphere of a community of disciplined, repressed, and paranoid God-fearing souls. The mass hysteria that erupts from the girls' deception and play-acting is terrifying, as is the resulting condemnation of the truly pure and innocent. The orchestra, under Jesse Read, performs impeccably.
Vocally this opera is a challenge to its singers. The UBC Opera Ensemble has elected to double cast the performances with each company's principles singing on alternate nights. The powerful voice of Melanie Krueger as Abigail Williams, and her acting ability and musicianship are outstanding, even in this very talented ensemble. John Proctor, sung by Gil Anderson, is the central stabilizing figure in the middle of the confused community. His beautiful and controlled singing and his presence dominate as they should. In a large and talented cast these two performers are outstanding. Personally, I should have liked to have seen more of the elegantly dressed Tituba, Beverly McArthur, and heard more of her rich contralto voice.
It is unfortunate that the ensemble singing is almost unintelligible. In fact, it is difficult to hear the words in most of the production, and the very explicit synopses in the programme were a great help to understanding the on stage action.
© 2001, Jane Penistan
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