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The weekend of 9 through 12 August 2007 saw the young company in a slightly different and updated version of The Tales of Hoffmann, which worked splendidly on every count. Even the weather cooperated. The performances were indoors, but in a non-air-conditioned space in the heart of the city, which meant that windows and doors had to be kept closed to keep out extraneous city noises.
To begin with, they divided the five sections of the opera into two chunks: Prologue, Acts 1 and 2 into the first half, Act 3 and Epilogue into the second. Along with musical entre acts (arias from Don Giovanni) between each portion (to accommodate scene changes) the entire production was just under three hours. Performances by the 'first' team were scheduled for Thursday and Saturday evenings, plus Sunday afternoon. Each role, however, also had a 'cover', and a 'final dress rehearsal' (not open to the general public) featuring all the covers was held on Friday night.
Costumes for the covers were somewhat different, of course, and rather than the excellent chamber orchestra, Rebekah Hill (assistant conductor and chorus master) was at the synthesizer as she had also been otherwise. But this time, she was all the music. (She'd been the harp, etc in the orchestra, due to the limited pit space of Synod Hall in Pittsburgh.) Local musician Woody Brown was the excellent conductor, who kept everyone and everything moving smoothly throughout. The action never sagged, yet all the singers had more than enough time for breathing and moving around the rather confined stage area.
Stage director Sally Denmead had not previously directed in Pittsburgh, but that fact was not immediately apparent to the opera-goer. She and Ms Sederburg collaborated on a clever up-dating of the opera, moving it to Pitttsburgh (where else?) for the Prologue and Epilogue which take place in 1982.
Henry St George Tucker (Cochenille), Erica Kudisch (Olympia) and Jeff Gross (Spalanzani) ('The Tales of Hoffmann', Act 1 - The Doll). Photo © 2007 Neil Sederburg
Act 1 featuring the doll Olympia is set in 1962 at what was then Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech. (These days it's known as Carnegie-Mellon University.) Act 2 with Giulietta moves to a Las Vegas casino in 1975 while Act 3 and the singer Antonia moves to the somewhat nearly Adirondacks in 1980. It all made perfect sense.
Copyright © 20 September 2007
Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA