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The River Reporter, Arts & Leisure - (Original Article here)

Opera season returns to the Upper Delaware

by Tom Kane

NARROWSBURG, NY — You don’t know how close the Delaware Valley Opera (DVO) came to not opening its 2009 season.

Like all artistic companies, be they opera, ballet, symphony or amateur theater, DVO is struggling for its life. Despite the realities of the economic downturn, the DVO board and its cadre of singers, instrumentalists and stage workers decided to give their all and have a shortened season. Instead of 12 performances it will hold eight.

In order to have these performances, DVO canceled its young singers training program which was to be offered by the team of Nico and Carol Castel, who train singers in diction (Nico, a veteran of the New York Met) and stage craft and vocal production (Carol). Carol, no stranger to DVO, directed several of the most successful DVO productions in recent years.


So when “The Merry Widow” hit the boards at the Tusten Theatre on July 24, everyone was determined to make those performances count.

The “Widow” is one of the most melodious operettas in the repertoire. Written by Franz Lehar in 1905, this work has been performed and has wowed audiences, some feel, more times than any other operetta.

The performances at the Tusten Theatre in Narrowsburg are not to be missed. The orchestra, the cast of singers, the sets and the ambience of the old theatre will entrance and entertain you.

Jim Blanton, DVO’s artistic director, is also the conductor of the small but talented group of instrumentalists, and gets the best sound out of them. Four violins, a viola, a cello, a bass, a key board, a flute and a clarinet, they make the “Widow” dance in the small, intimate hall of the Tusten.

This performance has special excitement for local viewers, since the lead male role is sung by a local talent, baritone Christian Bowers, who grew up in Hankins but is now blossoming at Temple University, where he is expected to complete a double master of Music and Vocal performance.

This young man has a future in the world-class grand opera with his stature, his stage presence and especially his vocal prowess. He portrays the role of the princely Count Danilo, the first secretary of the fictitious nation of Pontevedra and distinguished ambassador and a bit of a rake. (He loves to go to Maxim’s, a Parisian night spot where there are girls, girls, girls.) The role calls for dignity, flirtatiousness, bombast, sensitivity and sheepishness (at the cruel hands of Hanna, the widow). It’s all there in his vocal delivery, where he is eminently at the top of his form in this performance.

The DVO company will do well if it can attract such rare talent as these individuals progress on up to the “big time.”

Eileen Mackintosh deftly sings the role of the flirtatious widow, Hanna Glawari, and cruelly plays with the affections of Danilo. Her pure soprano voice rose easily over the swelling tones of Blanton’s orchestra.

Tenor Anthony Daino sings the role of the love-sick Count Camille with assurance and the required tenor high notes that resonate in the hall.

Soprano Jody Weatherstone plays the role of the beleaguered “respectable wife” (the key message of her aria) who is torn between marital duty and her feelings of love for Danilo.

The male cast steals the show in a grand scene when they sing the praises of (again) girls, girls, girls at Maxim’s. In a long line that extends across the somewhat small stage of the Tusten, they prance and kick like a line of the Rockettes at the Radio Music Hall in New York. They brought the house down.

You still have a chance to see “The Merry Wido,” which will be performed on Sunday, July 26 at 3:00 p.m. at the Seelig Theatre at Sullivan County Community College, on Sunday August 2 at 3:00 p.m. at the Tusten Theatre and on Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m.

DVO will also hold four performances of Puccini’s opera La Boheme: Saturday, August 1 at 7:30 at the Tusten; Thursday, August 6 at 7:30 at the Seelig Theatre; Friday, August 14 at 7:30 at the Tusten and Sunday, August 16 at 3:00 at the Tusten.

For more information visit DV-Opera.org or call 845/252-7272.