Barn Opera’s new season promises to delight and challenge audiences | Performing arts | Seven days

Opera music

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Barn Opera has officially completed two and a half years of renovations on its 19th century barn in Brandon. At an open day in late August, the public toured the hall, which now has 104 repurposed cinema seats, complete with cup holders. Its lobby features an electric fireplace, a bar repurposed from a Vermont post office counter, bathrooms lined with opera scores, and an original painting of the opera by Brandon resident Warren Kimble.

The warm and relaxed setting corresponds to the vision of opera that the tenor Joshua Necklace had in mind when he founded the company in 2017: an unpretentious art form that everyone can enjoy. Barn Opera’s ambitious new season promises the same.

Two operas are planned at the barn before the winter holidays: that of Richard Strauss Ariadne in Naxos and Collier’s own adaptation of Jules Massenet Wetherentitled Charlotte’s Letters. Between these productions, the company will do a three-day residency at Castleton University, where Collier teaches, culminating in a performance by Giacomo Puccini. Tosca.

Then, at the end of December, Barn Opera will perform Gian Carlo Menotti Amahl and the Night Visitors at the nearby Congregational Church in Salisbury – a holiday tradition in its third year. On New Year’s Eve, the company will stage the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Penzance Pirates return to the barn, followed by fireworks at midnight. And that’s only 2022.

Strauss can seem intimidating, Collier admitted in a phone call, given that the composer is known for his “very intense” operas such as Electra and Salome. But Ariadne is a lighter meal, and the director will have fun with it. The original story pits opera singers against a troupe of comedians. Both scheduled to perform for the richest man in Vienna, these two groups are forced at the last minute to combine their shows into one, a mashup of an opera called Ariadne in Naxos.

In the Barn Opera production, the rivalry is more current between opera singers and musical theater people. Vermont’s wealthiest couple rented “the most beautiful room in Vermont — which is, of course, the Barn Opera barn,” Collier said with a laugh.

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Helen Lyons - COURTESY

“Josh is always trying to find ways to bring new meaning to opera and to challenge audiences’ preconceptions of what opera should be,” said Helen Lyons, a soprano from Ferrisburgh who will sing Ariane. “In this version, he really sends opera singers: we’re insufferable people; we do ‘park and bark’. That gradually turns into the more authentic characterization of theater people.”

Lyons, who sang professionally in Germany for three years and is a classical music host and music director for Vermont Public, added that Strauss is “without exception my favorite composer, but sometimes he needs more than one listen.” She recommends listening to Jessye Norman sing Ariadne before the Barn Opera performance.

The cast of 12 also includes a Vermont-born mezzo-soprano Brooke Larimer, who lives in the Bronx, as a composer; and tenor from Brooklyn Chad Kranak like the god Bacchus. Kranak has sung everything since the solo part of Sergei Rachmaninoff Vespers at the Bard Music Festival last month to a robed monk during Madonna’s surprise Met Gala performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018.

Collier is particularly excited about Charlotte’s Lettershis interpretation of Massenet Wetherwhich is itself a French interpretation of Goethe The Sorrows of Young Werther. Collier tells the doomed love story of young Charlotte and Werther – Charlotte marries Albert; Werther shoots himself – from Charlotte’s perspective at the end of his life.

“She relives or imagines [their relationship] as she re-reads her letters,” the director explained. His approach, he added, “gives people the space to reminisce about their own memories.

Collier simplified the music but kept “all the tunes, duets and famous pieces” and inserted monologues for the older Charlotte.

“The thing is, why would I do everything that’s already been done? Collier said of his approach. “These stories have other stories to tell that haven’t been told. If I can do that using existing constructs, I’m interested.”

Barn Opera’s productions manage to convey the emotion of opera in remarkably pared-down ways. Chaired by the pianist Felix Jarrarthe nine-foot Steinway from the curtainless stage provides the sole musical accompaniment, and the company’s musical director, Cailin Marcel Mansonoften steps in to sing baritone roles.

The company relies on small casts, supplemented by a community choir that it invites to perform each year in Amahl and the Night Visitors. The 45-minute opera was the first to be commissioned and composed for television; it premiered on NBC on New Year’s Eve 1951. Collier is currently looking for choir members, if any readers are interested.

Lyons, who will sing Amahl’s mother as well as the title role in Toscacommented that singing with Barn Opera is “a lot of fun” because “They have limited resources and there’s no ego. There’s something about Josh. He really instills a great sense of warmth in the community.”