HomeOperaIN Sequence’ A Fairy Queen: Thrice Charmed by Magic

IN Sequence’ A Fairy Queen: Thrice Charmed by Magic

A Fairy Queen graphic by artist Richshaad Ryan; courtesy of IN Sequence.

Prologue: The course of true opera by no means did run clean.  IN Sequence’ manufacturing of A Fairy Queen has a three-hundred-year, sophisticated historical past behind it.  Opera developed in several kinds throughout completely different time durations in Italy, France, Germany, and England.  We’re nonetheless ready for totally developed American opera, put up Menotti and Sondheim.  Opera purists are likely to view altering the divine works of the good masters as sinful.  But, from what I’ve learn that was not all the time the case.  Opera performances have been meant to be entertaining artistic endeavors that linked their truths with audiences of the current day, place, and tradition; modifications and variations have been routine.  IN Sequence agrees with Shakespeare that the play’s the factor, however methinks their essence is the way you current the play issues.  Their on-line motto is “Opera that speaks. Theater that sings.”  Now of their fortieth yr and below the management of Creative Director Timothy Nelson since 2018, their title was derived from an early evaluate that referred to as their productions inspirational, interesting, and international.  For progressive opera exploring vital themes, it’s the IN place to be within the DC space.

1600’s: England was sluggish to embrace dramas through which the phrases have been sung, holding tight to the spoken variations of their nice dramatists.  An early step was to provide semi-operas: take a pleasant play, divide it into 5 acts, and insert musical interludes between the acts with some singing and dancing for good measure, all to be carried out at court docket (that’s the place the individuals who may pay for it resided).  English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was the style’s most extremely regarded practitioner, and The Fairy Queen, based mostly on William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night time’s Dream” is considered the very best of the kind, primarily as a consequence of Purcell’s music.  A lot of the play revolves round Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, whose falling out drives the early motion.

IN Sequence Creative Director Timothy Nelson; photograph courtesy of IN Sequence.

2016: Did you discover the shift between A Fairy Queen and The Fairy Queen within the prologue?  The journey from one to the opposite started when Creative Director Nelson conceived and constructed a brand new model of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen to be totally staged for a 2016 competition in England; he selected to name his building A Fairy Queen.  The alterations have been substantial.  The Fairy Queen is a five-act adaptation of “A Midsummer’s Night time Dream” with 5 musical interludes.  Interludes weren’t often constructed to be a part of the drama; moreover, in these 4-5 hour performances, the actors didn’t sing and the singers didn’t act.  Mr. Nelson needed to create a transparent narrative circulation with music and singing straight supporting the vital themes of the play in a shorter timeframe.  His Fairy Queen has 4 tales from Shakespeare’s play introduced as 4 dramas introduced over 4 nights by fairies, with a prologue and epilogue; he included about 90% of Purcell’s music from The Fairy Queen and a few of Purcell’s different songs as properly, all picked to assist what was taking place within the play, all sung by the actors.   

2020: The plot thickened in 2020 when A Fairy Queen, scheduled to be a completely staged opening to its new season, was undone by the COVID pandemic.  IN Sequence selected as a substitute to have a digital season with on-line productions positioned on their INvision streaming platformA Fairy Queen was to be achieved as a podcast, considered the primary podcast opera.  Creative Director Nelson had the thought to make use of previous expertise in an opera yr seasoned by expertise.  He conceived utilizing a radio present format from the mid-Twentieth century to speak the themes of Purcell’s and Shakeseare’s work.  This allowed a narrator to be employed, together with a sound results particular person that might assist talk time and the place of the opera.  Actor/singers and musicians from across the globe have been deployed in separate efforts creating recordings that have been stitched collectively by IN Sequence employees.  The podcast continues to be obtainable on the IN Sequence web site

2021: The return to reside staging of opera for IN Sequence was a rigorously orchestrated effort that started in October with an animated function, BOHEME within the Heights, together with reside music in a theater.  Mr. Nelson determined to open the 2021-2022 season of reside staged opera with A Fairy Queen, noting that each A Midsummer Night time’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet have been first carried out in England in a yr when Europe was rising from a pandemic, as if Shakespeare was saying that theater was not going away.  IN Sequence needed to make the identical pronouncement and believed {that a} light-hearted opening manufacturing can be becoming.    

Sunday:  I got here to the Lang Theater questioning how properly Mr. Nelson’s deconstruction and resynthesis of Shakespeare and Purcell would work; to borrow once more from the bard, would he be capable of make harmony of his discord?  The query got here again to me close to the tip of the opera’s first part.  On the finish of ‘Night time the First: The Mechanicals’, the participating novelty had largely worn off, and after some preliminary hilarity, the character Backside, whose clueless method was being successfully performed for laughs on stage, was beginning to development extra annoying than amusing to me.  Possibly the ‘The Mechanicals’ (the locals planning to placed on the play Pyramus and Thisbe) was not a powerful sufficient opening act to maintain me engaged, or possibly skipping lunch had dropped my blood sugar too low.  However treatment was quickly at hand.  Puck started ‘Night time the Second: The Fairies” with a soothing rendition of Purcell’s “O Solitude”, and when Titania began singing, first with Oberon after which the Refrain, I grew to become viscerally conscious that every one my concern had vanished.  Certainly, the transformation was magical.  Maybe some fairy mud from the stage had blown throughout the viewers.  On stage, an old-time radio efficiency of A Fairy Queen, a play inside a play, was in progress, carried out in entrance of a reside viewers, and I grew to become a part of ‘that’ viewers as soon as extra.  Backside grew to become humorous once more, particularly snuggling as much as Titania, and this music drama enveloped me for the remainder of the trip.  Afterwards, it appeared to me that Shakespeare and an English semi-opera had been successfully remodeled into an American opera that regarded destined for Broadway.

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l to r: Ben Williamson who performed Oberon; Lucy Web page who performed Titania; and Sara Couden who performed Fairy and Quince. Photographs courtesy of IN Sequence.

Highlights: The manufacturing was achieved properly total.  Actually, a spotlight was the forged of multi-talented singers.  A Fairy Queen locations a particular demand on the singers.  Not solely should they sing baroque properly, however they need to additionally recite Shakespeare properly.  This forged, who typically performed a number of roles, was marvelous in each regards.  Mr. Nelson was capable of anchor the efficiency by bringing again three singers from the podcast – soprano Lucy Web page as Titania, countertenor Benjamin Williamson as Oberon, and mezzo-soprano Sara Couden as a fairy/Peter Quince.  All three have been extraordinary.  Given her impact on me, Ms. Web page should certainly have been a Siren in historic Greece in a former life.  Mr. Williamson and Ms. Couden appeared like naturals for his or her roles.  The 4 younger lovers, soprano Melissa Wimbish taking part in Hermia, tenor Aaron Sheehan as Lysander, baritone Marc Callahan as Demetrius, and mezzo-soprano Sylvia Leith as Helena supplied vocal treats in these and different roles, however in addition they supplied terrific Shakespeare with their rousing spat when Helena felt below assault from the opposite three, lifting me to the sting of my seat.  Bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca as Puck and in different roles supplied deep sounds wanted to underscore magic.

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l to r: Melissa Wimbish who performed Hermia/Flute/Thisbe; Marc Callahan who performed Backside/Demetrius/Pyramus; and Aaron Sheehan who performed Lysander/Snout/Wall. Photographs couresy of IN Sequence.

The music, directed by Mr. Nelson who additionally contributed on the harpsichord and organ, included cellists Wheeler Jarvis and Maxfield Wollam Fisher, violinist Jeffrey Thurston, and pianist Emily Baltzer.  This small group ably supplied accompaniment and expression of Purcell’s music.  Throughout Mr. Williamson’s wonderful aria “Music for awhile” I started to sense the cleverness in Mr. Nelson’s scoring this efficiency for 3 keyboards; “Music for awhile” accompanied by piano and cello, with the cello performed pizzicato, turned baroque into jazz.  I started to look ahead to listening to the completely different colorations that harpsichord, organ, and piano gave to the completely different songs, with the harpsichord saying correctly achieved, the organ soothing and mellowing arias, and the piano, late to the baroque social gathering saying you haven’t actually heard baroque till you’ve heard me play baroque.  This selection by Mr. Nelson was completely different and thrilling, however extra pleasure was in retailer.  Mr. Nelson feigned a failed try to accompany Ms. Couden on a toy trumpet.  She requested for viewers assist, and within the greatest shock of the efficiency, star soprano Claron McFadden emerged from the viewers because the wanted and fairly pleasing Trumpet.  Singers additionally included a 3 fairy ensemble (soprano Rachel Evangeline Barham, tenor Andrew Sauvageau, and baritone James Rogers).

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l to r: Sylvia Leith as Helena/Comfortable/Lion; Enrico Lagasca as Puck/Starveling/Moonshine; and Claron McFadden as Trumpet. Photographs courtesy of IN Sequence.

Staging for the opera was easy, however acceptable and satisfactory, a radio studio with wanted personnel and gear and a studio viewers.  Sitting beside the ON AIR mild, narrator John T. Okay. Scherch seemed like an actual life radio host, which he’s, in addition to a performing bass.  On the aspect manning a sales space with an incredible assortment of issues to make sounds with was Sound Results Artist Jill Ahrold Bailey.  Each of those contributors had impeccable timing and used properly their many alternatives so as to add to the humor of the efficiency.  Want proof audiences are a part of performances? Ms. Bailey held up an indication telling the viewers when to applaud.

Epilogue: My spouse’s summation was that she thought the efficiency of A Fairy Queen was lovely!  I’ll add a bit extra.  Shakespeare’s phrases and wit drew us into real love, love misplaced, and more true love discovered; Purcell’s music quieted the beast to allow us to expertise the bard’s incantations, and this IN Sequence efficiency was, as my spouse proclaimed, lovely.  Creator, composer, and performers every contributed to the magic.  We, the viewers, have been thrice charmed.  In the long run, reside staged opera reemerged and met its objective – magnificence was achieved and shared. 

The Fan Expertise: IN Sequence gave performances of A Fairy Queen on December 3 in Baltimore on the Baltimore Theatre Mission, and on December 4 and 5 within the Lang Theater within the Atlas Performing Arts Middle.  Their 2021-2022 seasons features a premiere of a brand new opera, Zavala-Zavala, and IN Sequence’ first efficiency on the Kennedy Middle; particulars for the remainder of their season could be discovered at https://www.inseries.org/current-season

Discovering IN Sequence on-line generally is a problem once you strive “in sequence” in your browser’s search bar.  When you use the time period “in sequence opera” it pops up.  The URL is “inseries.org”.  There’s loads of on-line content material there to be loved.

The Lang Theater was an ideal venue for A Fairy Queen, not tiny, however nonetheless intimate and cozy.  Atlas Performing Arts Middle is a 35 minute drive from Tysons Nook below optimum driving situations.  Sunday’s was nice.  Most daunting, nevertheless, is the issue find on avenue parking.  As an alternative, I reserved an in depth by parking slot from SpotHero, an organization really helpful by the Middle’s web site and that labored out properly.  A bus possibility from Union Station additionally exists. 



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