Opera Popolare

From our Producer, Celie Thomas:

Our staged production of the Handel Oratorio Samson opens next week, Wednesday, August 6 at 7:30; Thursday, August 7 at 7:30, Friday, August 8 at 7:30, and Saturday, August 9 at 2:00 at the Garden Street United Methodist Church, 1326 N. Garden St. Parking is available in the east quadrant of the Magnolia/Garden intersection, southwest of the church, and across the alley southeast of the church. Enter the church through the wheel chair access along Garden Street.

Today I've been thinking of Samson's growth as a character through the course of the Oratorio. Samson, sung by Carlo Furlan, himself a pastoral musician, starts out in the darkest spirits, singing one of the most famous arias of the work, “Total eclipse! No sun, no moon, all dark amidst the blaze of noon! O glorious light! No cheering ray to glad my eyes with welcome day! Sun, moon, and stars are dark to me.”This darkness is physical, emotional, and psychological because he has been reduced from his stature as strong man of the Israelites to a man broken in spirit, blind, enchained, and forced to do hard labor. As the story progresses Samson's mood evolves from despair at the beginning to anger, as he trades insults with Harapha, the Philistine giant of Gath, to quiet fortitude, "Let but the Spirit which first rush'd on me . . . inspire me at my need: Then shall I make Jehovah's glory known." Throughout Samson's ordeal he is encouraged by his faithful friend, Micah, sung by Lesley Rigg, and his father, Manoah sung by Norman Hale. Micah stands beside Samson, mourns his loss of sight and strength, and prays for a peaceful end for Samson. As Samson begins to gain internal strength, Micah exhorts him to let the Holy One of Israel be his guide. Lesley's stalwart Micah exudes just the right peaceful strength to counter Samson despair and anger. Norman's portrayal of Manoah, strikes a chord with any of us who have had children of our own. Manoah remembers how he had prayed to God for a son, and sings of how he wishes he could share his son's burdens, and when all is said and done, commends his son, the glorious hero, to sweet repose.

Dalila sends her servant Aphra, sung by Monica Burlingame, to tell Samson Dalila misses him, and then Dalila, sung by Serena Viens, exhorts Samson to hear the voice of love, but then calls him a traitor to love. Serena and Carlo sang a similar lovers' spat duet in Semele, but this time the odds are much reversed. In Semele Carlo's Jupiter was the head god of Olympus and Serena's Semele was a mortal. In Samson, Carlo's Samson is a toppled leader and Serena's Dalila is a shrewd agent of the enemy.

You have to wait until almost the end to hear Nashyan (Wendy Donaghy) sing the most famous aria of the Oratorio, "Let the Bright Seraphim", but it's worth the wait. The Opera Popolare orchestra is expanded to include two trumpets especially for this aria, one of the most famous in Baroque soprano literature.

Harapha, Giant of Gath, played by Kyle Dalvit, was recruited for the role, as you will see. Talia Rayne sings the first aria of the show as Achisha, a Philistine woman. Abiyah, an Israelitish messenger is portrayed by Karen Powers, and Bedan, an Israelite Priest is portrayed by Dylan Kane. Members of the chorus include Dorothy Childs Weber, Laura Shelton, Wanda Maddox on soprano; Beth Fuller, Debra Davis, and Sue Rivord on alto; Anna Joy Walker, and Peder Fedde on Tenor; Brian Toews, Cody Vanderwerff, Fred Lund, Roger Clark on Baritone. The cast and chorus are accompanied by the nine-piece Opera Popolare orchestra, directed by Rob Viens. This year the orchestra includes 2 trumpets, necessary for "Bright Seraphim" as well as two violins, viola, cello, two oboes, and keyboard (organ and harpsichord). Rob also directs the stage action and prepared the chorus. Rob's set design is imaginative and functional, and it hides the "churchness" of the performance space better than any previous set. Assistant Director is Danielle Grant, originally a student of opera and now a student of opera directing. Stage Manager is Quy Ton, who is preparing for a career in Stage Management. Lori Childs has costumed the cast and chorus along with a post-apocalyptic theme with help from Dorothy Childs Weber and Katie Kennedy. 

Kris Aguero