'Little Women' launches the Annapolis Opera season

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com

The Annapolis Opera kicks off its performance season in earnest with a production of “Little Women” by American composer Mark Adamo, who will also appear for a lecture during the performance weekend, November 3 to 5.

The opera taken from the pages of the Louisa May Alcott classic won awards and praise since it premiered with the Houston Opera in 1998 and has since been produced over 35 times across the U.S and in Japan, Canada, Israel, Australia and Belgium.

Now it comes to Annapolis for performances on Friday evening and a Sunday matinee. But there is more.

Annapolis Opera has put together an Insight Series of presentations and lectures on Little Women, including Adamo who will speak about the creative process in an appearance November 5.

The company, in rehearsal since the middle of October, has brought mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko from her second season at the Metropolitan Opera to play the lead, Jo March.

Mesko might be familiar to Annapolis Opera fans - she won the opera’s singing competition five years ago. Now a regular at the Metropolitan, Mesko’s only role this season outside of the New York company is here.

“The story is just gorgeous. It was written 20 years ago for younger artists, written for younger voices,” Mesko said after a costumed photo shoot for The Capital. “And this is a young cast. The music suits us so well.”

Mesko said that the piece yields many tunes that the audience will take with them.

“Tonally you will walk away from this show whistling so many tunes and motifs that Mark Adamo expertly threads throughout the show,” she said.

The Little Women story and production is a departure from the repertoire up-and-coming opera stars learn to master, like Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” or Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” which Mesko is set to perform this season at the Met.

“It is different. But so many people are afraid of modern music because, ‘Oh, there is going to be no tune.’ But this is full of tunes… it is beautiful music.”

Mesko and other cast members are in town for the three weeks from beginning of rehearsals through the performance weekend. For a relatively small opera company, that could mean hefty costs for either the company or performers.

Like other small companies, Annapolis Opera performers stay with local families.

“We all have home stays,” Mesko said. “It’s lovely. Sometimes donors or board members or even opera lovers who want to help in any way they can house an artist for the three weeks we are in town,” Mesko said.

Many small opera companies offer the same. “That way they can get the best artists to town. A three-week hotel bill in humongous.”

Performance week is also highlighted by the Insight Series of presentations and lectures.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., Pulitzer-prize winning author and Alcott scholar, John Matteson, will talk about the Alcott family and how their relationships helped form the basis of the book. He will also discuss how Alcott developed as a writer. The lecture, at Maryland Hall, is free.

In two pre-performance lectures on November 3 and 5, noted music authority and Annapolitan, Nancie Kennedy, will talk about the backstory to Adamo’s “Little Women” plus the trials and tribulations of preparing for operatic performances.

Adamo himself will appear November 5, for a lecture on his creative process, what led him to “LIttle Women” and the general state of opera in America today.

Season ahead

Coming up in the remainder of the Annapolis Opera’s 2017-18 season is “Arias and Encores” a night of arias and duets from operas and musical theater on Dec. 3 at Calvary United Methodist Church. The show features four female singers, Meroe Khalia Adeeb, Nicole Levesque, Elisabeth Slater and Chrystal E. Williams.

On January 27, the Annapolis Opera, in cooperation with Towson University’s Opera in a Can, presents “The Billy Goats Gruff: A children’s opera.” The production is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale set to opera arias. It’s billed as “the perfect way to share the magic of live opera with your children.”

The show is also playing during the week on Jan. 24 to 26 for school groups only.

February 11 is “Taking a Chance on Love,” a performance of arias and love songs just in time for Valentine’s Day, presented at Rams Head Center Stage at Maryland Live! Casino.

Verdi’s “La Traviata” will take the stage on March 16 and 18. One of the most produced operas in the world, it portrays the tragic struggle of a Parisian courtesan, Violetta, who is torn between her desire for true love and retaining her fashionable way of life.

On April 28 and 29, the Annapolis Opera holds its annual vocal competition attracting young performers who compete before a blue-ribbon panel of judges. The competition also gives Artistic Director Ronald J. Gretz a chance to discover new talent for upcoming Annapolis Opera productions as they compete for prizes totaling over $10,000.

The last event of the season is the Concert in the Park, June 10 at Quiet Waters Park.

The free concert will present opera, operetta and musical theater favorites.

Performance week is also highlighted by the Insight Series of free presentations and lectures.

On Sunday, Pulitzer-prize winning author and Alcott scholar, John Matteson, will talk about the Alcott family and how their relationships helped form the basis of the book. He will also discuss how Alcott developed as a writer.

“’We really lived most of it’: Louisa May Alcott and the Genesis of Little Women” will be presented at 3 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

Noted music authority and Annapolitan Nancie Kennedy will give two pre-performance lectures on November 3 and November 5, speaking about about the backstory to Adamo’s “Little Women” plus the trials and tribulations of preparing for operatic performances.

“Challenges for the Modern Opera Singer” will be presented on November 3 at 6:45 p.m., and on November 5 at 1:45 p.m., both at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

“Little Women” composer Mark Adamo himself will appear for a lecture on his creative process, what led him to “LIttle Women” and the general state of opera in America today.

“Meet the Composer: Interview on Creative Process, will be at 5 p.m. on Novembr 4, the day between the two performances, at Maryland Hall.

To register for the free lectures or to buy tickets for the performances, go to annapolisopera.org.

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