poster designed by Tanya Barry

The Jun. 12 performance of Madama Butterfly in Annapolis Royal was the first of four around Nova Scotia in Maritime Concert Opera’s seventh annual opera festival. This production surpassed MCO’s prior successes on many levels. The entire cast, principal singers and chorus in later performances, were magnificently costumed and offered a spectacular visual treat rare in concert opera. The final act was simply but effectively staged with a single kimono hanging on a stand.

The well-cast principals sang completely in character.  Natalie Donnelly, as Cio-Cio San, is a lovely, powerful soprano with a tremendous range, effectively portraying a joyful innocence that flowed inevitably to convincing heartbreak.  She sang mostly off-book and her stunning kimonos served her performance perfectly.

Lenard Whiting was a complete Pinkerton — simpering, oblivious and exceedingly easy to dislike as he initially lusts after and then destroys Butterfly.  Edward Franko (Goro) was also convincing as the mainly unscrupulous, but somewhat amusing, marriage broker.  He also looked the part in his kimono.  Towering above the Japanese was Andrew Tees’ Sharpless. He presented the more pleasant face of Western interests in voice and aspect as he tried to persuade Pinkerton to do the right thing.  Nina Scott-Stoddart was Suzuki and chorus in the first two performances of the opera.  She projected both sympathy for and devotion to Butterfly, and their duet was amonth the most moving highlights of the production.  Robert Milne was a convincingly angry uncle in his brief time on stage.

Tara Scott’s piano accompaniment was, as usual, of the highest order, and Anne Morison contributed the magnificent costuming.

– Daphna Levit
Opera Canada, Fall 2011

Opera Canada

Maritime Concert Opera’s performance of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow in Lunenburg (Nov. 22) coincided with the first big snowstorm of winter.  As is often the case, neither snow plows nor shovels were adequately prepared for the dramatic onset of winter and the determined few who made it to the theatre were not entirely sure they could get back home.  But they certainly filled the theatre with their enthusiasm for the performance.

Although he did not have the full house he deserved, one singer new to MCO was memorable.  Baritone Justin Welsh, in the role of Count Danilo, was extremely attractive, dramatically understated and confident.  The widow certainly chose well, as her object of desire excelled in both manner and voice.  Janna Pardy in the title role is a frequent performer on the Lunenburg stage, and did not disappoint.  Tenor Keith Klassen as Camille and soprano Sarah Barrett-Ives as Valencienne gave lively, exciting performances as a passionate adulterous couple.

Nina Scott-Stoddart pulled the story together as it unfolded on stage with a lively narration.  Tara Scott sparked effortlessly at the piano.  The combined participation of local singers, a community chorus and opera professionals “from away” has, in the five-year history of this company, proved a receipe for success and local loyalty.

-Daphna Levit
Opera Canada
Spring 2009

Opera Canada
September/October 2006 issue

Maritime Concert Opera produced La Bohème as part of its second annual Summer Opera Festival, with a performance that surpassed its previous success with Barber of Seville. For the South Shore of Nova Scotia, opera in concert has proven to be a brilliant response to the intensity of musical demand and the scarcity of opera-appropriate local venues. Under Nina Scott-Stoddart’s inspiring artistic direction and Tara Scott’s flawless musical interpretation, Puccini’s beautiful music was very well served.

Rodolfo (Keith Klassen) and Mimi (Amber Bishop) were dramatically convincing in their roles, singing their doomed fate with passionate sincerity. Both singers were new to MCO and ensured that the audience would fall in love with both of them. Marcello (Andrew Tees) and Musetta (Janna Pardy) added grace, humor and maturity to the production. The set consisted of a row of black music stands to which Musetta’s shimmering dress added a vivid flash of color. The rich voice of Colline (Robert Milne) added depth to the production and he delighted the audience with his song to his coat. The entire cast transcended the stark simplicity of the stage and their powerful voices removed any need for sets. With Tara Scott at the piano, the immediacy of the voices was accentuated. She once again served her cast well and the production sounded as if it had an entire orchestra behind it.

The chorus consisted entirely of local singers, but the enthusiastic support of the sold-out audience was for the uncompromising beauty of the performance.

Daphna Levit

Passion, murder, betrayal – bravo!
Maritime Concert Opera brings power, discipline to seamy tale of Cavalleria Rusticana
[ Saturday, November 20, 2004]

By STEPHEN PEDERSEN / Arts Reporter / Opera Review

The good news is that chivalry is not quite dead.

Rustic chivalry, at least, flourished last night in the Maritime Concert Opera’s performance of Petro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

It was a good show that cheered up a cool November night. Who could fail to be roused by the glory of an operatic tenor and soprano arguing at the top of their voices with all the passion of Sicilian lovers, she betrayed, he refusing to abandon the wanton woman who turns him on?

The tale is seamy. Turiddu the ex-soldier, driven by his passion for Lola, wife of Alfio the carter, forsakes his bride-to-be, Santuzza, even though she carries his baby and has been excommunicated for her sin. Santuzza, the soprano (Dana Pardy), after being spurned by Turiddu (Lenard Whiting) and mocked by Lola (Nina Scott-Stoddart), spills the beans to Alfio (Jason Parkhill) and it’s goodbye Turiddu.

This all takes place in a quiet little Sicilian village on Easter Sunday. Mascagni, in the thrill-seeking tradition of opera composers, thus loads the dice.

His one-act opera, written in the late 1880s, is as dramatic as The
Godfather and only a tenth as long. His tongue is not in his cheek, but his opera is ironic and sardonic, almost a satire on opera except that he, no more than Puccini, could resist the ultimate musical release of soaring passion.

Whiting responded a little too passionately for his voice at the climax of the opera, but the breaking note only made his emotion more passionate.

The singing was particularly good from all the principals, though you could argue till the crows wake up about personal taste. Dana Pardy, dramatically convincing as Santuzza, had too much metal in her vibrato for my ear.

But Parkhill as Alfio, sporting a huge black beard, sang with even more power and warmth than ever and Scott-Stoddart carried off Lola’s vocal challenges with panache. Lori Proulx as Mama Lucia, Turiddu’s mother, also sang well, and Megan Fischbach as the young peasant girl who gets to scream at the villagers that Turiddu has been killed, hit a convincing note of hysteria.

The chorus, under the direction of James Aulenbach were well-trained and disciplined. There was a burr in their sound that perfectly suited the villagers they were impersonating.

The projected side-titles worked brilliantly, deepening the experience since you understood everything the actors were singing.

Pianist Tara Morton played the orchestral reduction simply and well, and was particularly effective in the famous Intermezzo just before the final scene, one of opera’s prettiest moments.

Bravo, Maritime Concert Opera. Let’s hear more from you.

MCO’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana plays at the Pearl Theatre in Lunenburg tonight.


Copyright © 2004 The Halifax Herald Limited