8/8/2013 -Jane Cormier, artistic director of Just Love to Sing!, urges people not to be afraid of the word “opera” when they consider seeing Hansel and Gretel next Thursday.
The production, sponsored by Opera New Hampshire, premieres on Aug. 15 and will be more approachable than your average opera experience, Cormier said — it’s free, it’s in English, it’s outside and it’s a story that everyone knows.
“With a show like Hansel and Gretel, you know it’s going to be good for the whole family,” Grace Kruskol of Opera New Hampshire said.
The opera was written by Engelbert Humperdinck (he wrote it based on the tale by the Brothers Grimm), but for the purposes of this outdoor performance, Just Love to Sing! is shortening the production considerably to accommodate the venue and audience. (The group will also present the full, two-and-a-half-hour show on Aug. 17 in Gilford.)
Kruskol says this event marks the first live opera event in the Friends of Stark Park Summer Concert Series.
“The fact that it’s outside means that it’s going to be more casual. People think that when you go to the opera, you have to get all dressed up, but this event will show that opera is for everyone,” Kruskol said. “You can come as you are and bring a blanket or chair and listen to the music. You don’t have to read subtitles or get a crash course in Italian to know what’s going on.”
Leave all the operatic challenges to the performers; Cormier, who plays Gretel, says that opera is usually performed indoors because the acoustics are easier to work with (outside, the lead actors and accompanying piano will be miked for diction purposes), but the outdoor atmosphere creates a completely new experience, for audience members and for actors.
“There’s a whole different kind of energy to it. … You can see the audience, whereas when you’re on [an indoor] stage, you can’t. I think it’s very accessible and brings opera right to the people,” Cormier said.
“It moves fast, but it’s funny and poignant … perfect for children and for families,” Cormier said.
The production features a cast of about 30 (many of whom are child choir members playing gingerbread men), but the leads are all accomplished singers, some of whom, like Cormier, have professional operatic resumes.
Though this show marks the first free, outdoor opera concert that it’s sponsored, Opera New Hampshire has been long at work making opera more accessible to New Hampshire residents, particularly youth.
“Over the past three years, we’ve been offering free tickets for area high school students to see our operas. It’s been catching on. Some schools say that students consistently really love it. … They get to see something that’s live music, and we want to make sure that the next generation is ready to keep the art form going,” Kruskol said.
This show also kicks off the 50th season for Opera New Hampshire, the beginning of what Kruskol says will be a great year for opera in the state. They partner with the New Hampshire Institute of Art and present “Art and Soul” in October (an art show and opera memorabilia, operanh.org). The Main Stage season will again feature Teatro Lirico D’Europa, but this year, audiences will get Carmen in February and Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore in March.