Castleton Festival

Albert Herring at Cal Performances

TheBrittenProject_AlbertHerring_01_Credit_F&ESchmidt * Notes * 
This weekend Cal Performances presented Castleton Festival's Albert Herring. The production involves much abuse of artificial fruit. It was particularly unsatisfying when the title character threw fake peaches against a Plexiglas window in Act II. The use of astroturf was, however, entertaining.

The cast, as with The Rape of Lucretia, boasted not a few lovely voices. The three children (Harry, Cis, and Emmie) were amplified, but sounded clean and pure in tone. Rachel Calloway was perfectly hysterical as Mrs. Herring. Adrian Kramer and Tammy Coll made for a funny, attractive pair as Sid and Nancy. Benjamin Bloomfield (Superintendent Budd), Tyler Nelson (Mr. Upfold), Alexander Tall (Mr. Gedge), Ashleigh Semkiw (Miss Wordsworth), and Kristin Patterson (Florence Pike) all acted and sang their roles with ease. Brian Z. Porter did well as Albert Herring, his diction was clear. Best of all was Nancy Gustafson as a very amusing Lady Billows. Her voice is luminous, flexible, and never shrill. The musicians, conducted by Lorin Maazel, played directly, but were a bit loud for the singers.

* Tattling * 
The audience members talked lightly, especially during overtures. There were a few watch alarms that sounded at each hour.

The Rape of Lucretia at Cal Performances

TheBrittenProject_ROL_06_MatthewWorth(Tarquinius)&TamaraMumford(Lucretia)_Credit_GiuseppeDiLiberto * Notes * 
Cal Performances presented Castleton Festival's The Rape of Lucretia this week. The opera itself struck me as highly contrived, even for an opera, framed by not one but two narrators. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. The production was not particularly illuminating, though it did have moments of beauty, especially the lighting of the scene in Lucretia's room. On the other hand, the use of flashlights at the beginning of Act II was obnoxiously blinding.

The cast featured a host of fresh, youthful voices. Marnie Breckenridge and Alison Tupay sang Lucia and Bianca clearly. Ekaterina Metlova's contralto was impressive, her low notes had such richness and her high ones soared. Her accent in English was noticable, however. Michael Rice was strong as Collatinus, as was Michael Weyandt as Junius. Matthew Worth (Tarquinius) was terrifying as the villain. "Within this frail crucible of light" was incandescent, and Arianna Zukerman sang the female chorus smoothly. Vale Rideout (male chorus) also sang well. The orchestra played steadily under Lorin Maazel, never overwhelming the singing.

* Tattling * 
The backstage noise was distracting. Many stage directions were completely discernable from the audience.

Marnie Breckenridge Interview

Breckenridge This weekend soprano Marnie Breckenridge (pictured left) will be singing the role of the Princess in Ensemble Parallèle's production of Orphée by Philip Glass. She will be singing in The Rape of Lucretia with Castleton Opera, which will be presented by Cal Performances in Berkeley next month. Last week, the Opera Tattler met with her in a practice room of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music between rehearsals.

You attended San Francisco Conservatory of Music, so welcome back! Are you from California?
Yes, though the Conservatory was on Ortega Street then. I grew up in Claremont, California, lived in San Francisco and Napa, but now I live in New York.

I see you have sung in English quite a bit, such as in Love and Other Demons, Candide, and The Rape of Lucretia. Orphée of course is in French, what are the challenges of not singing in your native language?
French was the first foreign language I studied, before I knew I was going to be an opera singer. It does feel different in the body than English.

How did you get the role of the Princess?
I was already singing with Nicole Paiement for the BluePrint Series, so Brian Staufenbiel asked me to audition for the Glass. I sang Juliette's Waltz, and I got the part. I've never sung Glass before but I'm absolutely loving the challenge.

I've seen some of the previews, and the production looks very exciting. Your character looks like a ringmaster in the videos that have been shown. Where have you been rehearsing?
We've been here at the conservatory, and rehearsing at a circus school too. We don't get into Herbst until the Wednesday before the opening. The performers in this production are incredible. The Roue Cyr artist, aerialist, and juggler are as much a part of this opera as the singers.

What was your first opera?
The first opera I sang in was Così fan tutte, and I was Despina.

Favorite opera?
I love all of Janáček's operas. Wozzeck and Der Rosenkavalier are also favorites.

Dream role?
Norma! I will probably never sing it, but I do sing it in the shower.

Who do you look up to?
The list is very long, and also, in a way, very short. Renée Fleming is amazingly consistent, and a nice person too. I admire Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Barbara Bonney, Kathleen Battle, but my all-time favorite is Leontyne Price.

How do you feel about live simulcasts?
As far as exposing opera to more people, it is really great. However, opera is a live art form, and you feel all the vibrations physically, so simulcasts do not recreate a full experience of it.

Do you feel pressure to be able to move and act well?
I have always been physically active, I danced ballet, jazz, and did gymnastics before deciding to become an opera singer. I've also acted, I was in ACT's summer training program. So I am coming to this from the other side, I've had to figure out how to move less! So I haven't felt that pressure.

Are there musicians in your family?
My mother plays piano, she also sang, and played organ at church.

Do you play an instrument?
I play piano. I played flute in band, but I didn't like the freezy brain feeling it give you.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I am interested improv, my husband is in a troupe. I go to art museums. I especially enjoy Monet, Manet, and Delacroix, but I also love trying to figure out more abstract paintings, like those of Jackson Pollock.