Opera Saratoga is off to a great start, but perhaps the best is yet to come
I used to have a colleague who on June 22 took great pleasure in informing the world that from that day on we began to lose sunlight every day. Who wants to hear this before the 4the of July?
I feel like that person as I write to let everyone know that Opera Saratoga 2022 is halfway done. Unfortunately, due to COVID, this summer Opera Saratoga was forced to perform at six different venues, and all for just one or two performances. Under these conditions, it would be easy to lose track of this important cultural asset.
For example, it’s already too late to see the brilliant musical “Sweeny Todd” which played Wednesday and Thursday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It was an exciting theatrical evening that bridged the gap between opera and musical theatre. Each role was beautifully sung and well acted.
The role of Mrs. Lovett was played by Broadway star Carolee Carmello. The Schenectady native is a three-time Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk winner. Not only does she have a great singing voice, but her understated comedic moments were a big and much-needed relief from this very dark musical. His work was terrific.
His performance also made bass-baritone Craig Colclough, who plays Sweeny Todd, less demonic. He has an impressive voice, great stage presence and a flair for the dramatic moment. His gifted singing and Carmello’s sense of humor made them a great team.
The entire cast was filled with superior voices. I could applaud every actor, but in picking just a few, Louis Tiemann as Anthony and Angel Yam as Johanna as young lovers did wonderful illustrations of many of the most beautiful songs in the production. Morgan Mastrangelo breaks your heart with “Not While I’m Around”.
The staging with the performers playing over the orchestra isn’t the ideal way to present the musical, but director Stephen Nachamie made many smart choices that kept the flow of the story intact. Laura Bergquist conducted the orchestra in a way that proved “Sweeney Todd” is a musical masterpiece.
In a strange and unforeseen way, starting with “Sweeny Todd,” the last three productions are a mini-version of Edelson’s 8-year tenure as Artistic and General Director of the Saratoga Opera.
He leaves at the end of July for the University of Houston as professor of practice and artistic director of Moore’s Opera Center. He retains his position as artistic and general director of the American Lyric Center in New York. Both institutions have a strong focus on developing performers and composers of the future.
Clearly, the future of the art form and Edelson’s career are each about the future of opera. It is no coincidence that he both doubled the size of the young artists program during his stay and presented several new dramatic operas to the public.
This season also includes a new work in the region, “Sky on Swings”. It premiered in Philadelphia in 2018. Thanks to COVID, it is now finding its audience by telling the story of two patients with Alzheimer’s disease. A woman suffered the effects of memory loss and cognitive function. The other is in the early stages of the disease. By chance, they meet in a nursing home to teach and learn from each other.
There are thirty million people affected by this disease which also wreaks havoc on family and friends. Edelson’s father is one of those thirty million people. He’s the production director who promises to be an insightful and human experience. He plays 7:30 a.m. at the Egg in Albany, July 7-9.
If you’re going to leave, go big. It’s hard to think of a greater farewell than performing “The Barber of Seville” on the Proctors main stage in Schenectady. Rossini’s ode to love and laughter airs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday July 8 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday July 10.
Edelson has many notable accomplishments of which he is rightfully proud. This season is an example of his ability and willingness to collaborate with other artistic groups and venues. Yet when he talks about what promises to be a glamorous and cheerful ‘Barber of Seville’, it’s the performance he’s most proud of.
He says he’s honored to have the distinguished baritone Sidney Outlaw to play the scheming comic barber, Figaro, but there’s added pride when he highlights the important role of Count Almaviva, who is played by Brian Yeakley, a former student of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artists Program.
The pride doubles when he reveals that the production is being directed by Eve Summer, another Young Artists alumnus.
With Edelson leaving the city of Saratoga, the entire region loses an innovative leader. But he hasn’t left yet. There are a few weeks left to enjoy and appreciate our good fortune in the high standard of opera he has brought to our region.
Bob Goepfert is theater critic for the Troy Record.
Opinions expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of that resort or its direction.