Loud Voices Lift Opera ‘The Scarlet Letter’ at OU
It was old-fashioned Puritan guilt against the nearly limitless promise of the new world in an opera premiering Wednesday at the University of Oklahoma.
The 2016 opera based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” was staged at OU’s Reynolds Performing Arts Center, 560 Parrington Oval.
Composed by Lori Laitman, with a libretto by David Mason, it was performed on a modern and minimal setting, by an ensemble dressed mainly in black and white.
Laura Romero brought a pure and sweet voice to Hester Prynne, the heroine single mother, refusing to name the father of her daughter. David Soto Zambrana leaned on a loud voice as a young pastor, struggling with illness, nightmares and guilt, for letting Hester blame their out-of-wedlock daughter.
Matthew Reynolds also performed very well as a doctor dabbling in alchemy, perhaps administering poisonous drugs, and perhaps seeking revenge as Hester’s ex-husband.
Romero will alternate with Amanda Kosi as Hester, Zambrana with Lorenzo Butler as pastor, and Reynolds with Matthew McKinnon as doctor, in the opera’s brief run.
Parker Millspaugh was just menacing and wizarding enough as Mistress Hibbons, adding to the impact of the twisted and melodramatic romantic triangle. Grace Ann Singleterry was appealing, with just a hint of the imp, as Hester’s daughter Pearl – a role she will alternate with Amelia Woodard.
Bostonians from the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the 1600s also filled crucial roles, their black and white garments complementing Hester’s gray-white outfit and red “A”.
Armed with long guns, sticks, wooden rakes, and crude agricultural implements, they functioned as a sort of choir – a choir that could judge or turn into a mob, at the slightest black hat.
Guest Stage Directed by Beth Greenberg, with austere decor by Jon Young evoking both city and forest, the opera was backed by a superb pit orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Shames.
The OU School of Music offering is highly recommended in its run at 8 p.m. Feb. 11-12 and 3 p.m. Feb. 13. Masks were worn by all performers during the February 9 premiere and are strongly encouraged for viewers. For ticket information, call 405-325-4101 or visit http://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/d-i0CL91K8fNVpp1VhBsxeV?domain=theatre.ou.edu.