The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








A Magic Flute rehearsal. Kelly Sennott photo.

See The Magic Flute

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord
When: Mainstage productions are Friday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m.; youth matinee performance is Saturday, July 25, at 2 p.m.
Admission: $25, $20 for seniors and children; $12 for youth matinee production
Contact:, 781-5695

First production
Magic Flute is Piccola Opera’s inaugural show

By Kelly Sennott

After Amherst resident Johanna Landis sang opera in Italy two summers ago — a “bucket list” kind of endeavor — she had no idea she’d have an opportunity to perform again, let alone in her home state.

Yet here she was, rehearsing for Piccola Opera’s The Magic Flute one recent evening at the company’s new rehearsal studio tucked off Concord’s North Main Street. The opera, written by Mozart, will be performed at the Concord City Auditorium Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m. 
Landis saw the call for singers in the Amherst Citizen a few weeks back, inquired to husband-wife directing team Jane Cormier and Carlos Martinez and began taking lessons immediately. Even with her voice resume — she studied music in college and has sung all her life, through part-time jobs and opportunities — she’s already learned a lot from the duo, from proper use of diction and phonetics to breathing and placement of sound.
“I’m very excited. I feel like these guys are an incredible resource for the community,” Landis said. “This is such a unique situation, not only because we’re singing opera, but because of the level of artistry and the ability they have to teach. It’s really like something you’d find in Boston or New York.”
The Magic Flute is the first full-fledged production for Concord’s newly established opera company run by Cormier (artistic director) and Martinez (music director), formerly of Just Love to Sing! in the Lakes Region. Cormier says this is one of the five “best-loved operas in the world,” and the cast, made of community members and professional opera singers, will perform the English translation. Cormier herself has been in the production 38 times.
“We casted from from the opera competition and community auditions in the spring. We got a really good response,” Cormier said via phone.
For Landis, who’s sung most of her life but took a detour to become a dentist and raise a family, Piccola Opera is a haven. It’s also beneficial for young singers new to the art, like Brock Higley of Bedford, who delved into opera over a year ago. He loves the challenge of it.
“[Opera music] is more complex than most musical theater music — the rhythms and the overall components. You have to pronounce everything perfectly, and you have to project to make sure everyone can hear you in the audience,” he said. (Opera, unlike musical theater, isn’t usually miked.) “I definitely have to spend more nitty gritty time on specific details; I can’t just sing a whole song and feel good about it.”
Cormier said the cast is made up equally of high schoolers, community members and professional singers. The interest among young people was so prolific, Cormier and Martinez decided to create an additional matinee show that condenses The Magic Flute; the kids who make up the mainstage chorus will be able to have a go at the company’s lead roles Saturday at 2 p.m. So far, they’ve been catching on well.
“These kids are just sponges. They’re sucking this stuff up,” Cormier said. “So not only do they get to come, perform and observe more experienced opera singers, but they actually get to … try it themselves. I’ve never seen another opera company do this, not while at the same time offering a mainstage production.”
Performing as Tomino is Joshua Collier, a Boston resident who comes in fresh from an opera in Middlebury. He won the role at Piccola Opera’s competition last fall — a great experience for more more amateur opera singers, he said — and has a strong, booming voice, audible from the streets below. 
Piccola Opera has three tiers — education, enlightenment and entertainment — and so Cormier and Martinez are thrilled at the response among both professional and amateur singers. They hope to hold a summer production every year and, eventually, create an endowment. The long-term goal: to help remove opera from its current “niche” status and make it more mainstream, in New Hampshire especially. The two are donating 100 percent of their time to this project, getting no pay from the company in return.
“My husband and I took a hiatus [from opera] the last four years. We didn’t produce any fully staged operas. … I look up, and it’s really troubling to see how many opera companies have closed their doors the past four years. Big companies, small companies. For the first time in my life, I can see that opera has turned into a niche art form,” Cormier said. “To have it go away to the point where nobody really knows about opera would be such a loss. It’s been around since the 1600s, and it’s a cultural diamond, as far as I’m concerned.”
As seen in the July 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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