Review by Ahsan Awan, American Presswire, Oct 30, 2023
Anchorage Opera, Alaska’s premier opera company, kicked off its highly anticipated 2023-2024 season with a stunning production of Gaetano Donizetti’s beloved masterpiece, “The Elixir of Love.” The performances, held October 27-29 at the Discovery Theatre inside the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, offered a delightful blend of exquisite singing, engaging storytelling, and impressive staging. This production set the bar high for what promises to be a remarkable season for Anchorage Opera.
“The Elixir of Love” is a lighthearted and humorous romantic opera, and Anchorage Opera’s rendition truly captured the essence of the work. Under the guidance of Anchorage Opera’s accomplished Principal Conductor, Maestro Brian DeMaris, and Anchorage Opera’s extraordinary new General Director, Ben Robinson, the cast and crew flawlessly brought Donizetti’s music and Felice Romani’s libretto to life.
Ben Robinson’s debut as General Director struck an exceptionally high note with this production, for which he also played the role of Stage Director. Partnering with the incredibly talented Set Designer Lauren Miller, Costume Coordinator Kaeli Braden, and Costume Consultant Elle Janecek, Robinson transported the audience to a classic television studio soundstage during the nostalgic 1980s. Bright colors and bold looks abounded within the costuming, makeup, and inventive set pieces.
Technical innovation was seen in the clever use of projector screens to set the scene solidly in the intended decade and give the audience a visually enhanced experience, integrating videos into the live production. The audience were treated to ads for DeLorean cars and aerobic workouts, along with real-time scene projections from the “sound stage.” The bespoke commercials for the Elixir of Love itself — “d’amore – by Dulcamara” — particularly struck a chord, landing like a delightfully corny 1980s perfume advertisement.
Robinson also added to the overall experience by creating charming supertitle translations, with the text adjusted for the setting while maintaining (even enhancing!) the comedy. Little adjustments to the translation – such as a character going off to the SAG lounge or signing a contract to work for the war movie across town instead of enlisting in the actual army – kept the audience engaged and in the moment.
Once again, Anchorage Opera assembled a talented cast, featuring both familiar faces and newcomers who showcased their exceptional vocal prowess. The standout performances of the evenings were led by the charismatic tenor, Luke Honeck, who portrayed Nemorino. Honeck is a local star in his first leading role. His rendition of “Una furtiva lagrima” left the audiences in awe with its emotional depth and lyrical beauty. He brought the house down – and he did some very impressive moonwalking, as well.
Radiant soprano Lindsay Ohse, who returned to Anchorage to grace the stage as sitcom leading lady Adina, was enchanting; both range and acting skills shone brightly. Her vocals seemed effortless, especially in her gorgeous final aria, “Prendi.”
Notable also is baritone Jonathan Hays as Belcore, whose strong stage presence and resonant voice added depth to the production as he portrayed the sitcom’s swaggering sergeant and lady’s man, with the charisma of David Hasselhoff. Furthermore, the audiences were treated to the delightful and mischievous antics of the quack Doctor Dulcamara, the hustling elixir salesman/TV studio Craft Services caterer played by bass-baritone Philip Cokorinos, whose comic timing and vocal finesse was a true delight. Local star and soprano Christabel Sosa added flair, fun, and sass to the stage as Giannetta, “TV’s next it-girl.”
The chorus and supporting cast also deserve praise for their strong and unified performances, making the scenes truly come to life. Everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives, resplendent in blue eyeshadow and hot pink lips. The audience laughed out loud at the antics and physical comedy of cast members such as Becky Stubbs, Cady Lynn O’Brien, and Emily Darby; riotous chorus scenes were a highlight of the production, with every cast member clearly committed and engaged.
Under Maestro Brian DeMaris’ capable direction, the Anchorage Opera’s orchestra delivered a remarkable musical accompaniment. Their performance was characterized by precise phrasing, lush orchestration, and a harmonious blend of voices and instruments, ensuring that Donizetti’s score was brought to life in all its grandeur.
First-time opera-goer Kim Stevens, who was also the winner of the first performance’s “dress like it’s the 80s” drawing, said, “The show was unbelievably funny. It leaves me wanting to come back and see more. The show is unexpected in the best way, especially to those who have never seen opera before.”
Never to be forgotten, Anchorage Opera’s incredible Stage Manager, Helen Irene Muller – what a rock star! Together with her talented Assistant Stage Manager, Katie Bringold, everything occurring behind the curtain and backstage went perfectly. That kind of leadership is priceless, and both Anchorage Opera and the community are lucky to have such exceptional talent.
With exceptional performances, creative staging, and a captivating rendition of Donizetti’s masterwork, Anchorage Opera has set the bar high for the rest of the season. Opera enthusiasts and newcomers alike are in for a treat as they await the forthcoming productions in what promises to be an extraordinary season for Anchorage Opera.
Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the magic of live opera in the heart of Alaska! Next up is Derrick Wang’s “Scalia / Ginsburg,” a supremely comical look at the highly improbable friendship of two of our nation’s great Supreme Court justices, the late Antonin Scalia, and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That production will take place February 2-4 at the Sydney Laurence Theatre in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are on sale now and can be obtained through CenterTix.com or by calling 907-263-ARTS (907-263-2787).
Ahsan Awan has been covering opera, performance arts and live events for nearly two decades, and has been covering Anchorage Opera, since the 2022-2023 season. View review online: Spectacular Start – Anchorage Opera’s 2023-24 Season Begins with The Elixir of Love – American Presswire. Images taken by Denny Wells for Anchorage Opera and ©2023 Denny Wells. Editorial use by American Presswire with permission and subject to unrestricted use under license unless otherwise noted. Images taken by Brian C. Chen, MD for Anchorage Opera ©2023 Brian C. Chen. Editorial use by American Presswire with permission and subject to unrestricted use under license unless otherwise noted. Ahsan Awan can be found on X as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi. Denny Wells can be found on X as @dennywellsak and on Instagram as @dennywellsforalaska. Brian C. Chen can be found on Instagram as @bccak.