Boardwalk Empire set in Chicago in Italian? How Brown of us. This weekend brings Brown Opera Production’s (BOP) spring performance of Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti. Directed by Michelle Migliori ‘14 and musically directed by Jacob Klapholz ‘13, this opera puts a 1920s spin on this opera from 1810.
The BOP board decided to take on Don Pasquale in December 2011 knowing that it was one of the most musically difficult operas. However, under the musical direction of Klapholz, an untrained ear would never know the underlying difficulties of the music. The cast makes it seem almost effortless. The cast received its music back in December and the preparation shows wonderfully. The real strength of this production is the vocal talent of Don Pasquale (John Brakatselos ’15) and Norina (Kathryn Cohen ’13). Brakatselos’ voice is as big as his fat suit. And the only response I can give to Cohen’s performance is: “Darn that girl can SANG… and act!”
Klapholz has gathered some of the most talented musicians at Brown to fill the pit. Seamlessly directed, the orchestra keeps the audience moving through a story of false identity and romance. Musically this show is breath taking. In an unconventional number, the chorus and Ernesto (Andrew Brown ’15) are accompanied by guitar. This number stands apart from the rest of the show and shows off the vocal strengths of Andrew Brown.
The most entertaining moment of the play comes with the chorus’ opening of Act 3 after the intermission. This high-energy group number picks up the pace and swings the audience back into the plot. The chorus contains many opera newcomers, but I challenge you to distinguish between the experienced and the newbies.
This is Migliori’s first direction of an opera and she wanted to focus on “the beautiful spectacle” that opera allows. The opera doesn’t have a deep message or political view it is trying to get across. It is just about enjoying the great music and the wonderful talent surrounding Brown for an hour or so. Migliori chose to set the opera in 1920s Chicago and explored the “dark, glamorous feel of the mafia.” Migliori’s grandfather, who recently passed away, was a huge fan of the opera, and she wanted to direct something of which he would be proud.
Now I know what your thinking — opera? Isn’t that just old fat men singing the vowel “A” over and over again? Nope! Well… at least not at Brown? Opera is over the top and extreme, but Migliori and Klapholz do a wonderful job of grounding the spectacle in the talents of the performers and the limitations of a smaller chorus. If you have never seen an opera before, this is a good place to start.
If you are just interested in the singing and orchestration, a concert version of the opera will take place Friday March 16 at 8 p.m. in Kasser Fox auditorium. Don’t know where that is? Me neither. Look it up. (*It’s just below George St. on Thayer – across from the Ratty.)
I recommend seeing the full production and vision of Migliori on March 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. in Alumnae Hall. A small semi-formal opening night gala will occur after the performance on the 18. “Champagne,” aka sparkling cider, will be provided — just bring your opera attire. Reserve your free VIP seating and position at the toast by emailing brownoperaproductions(at)gmai