Opera Works' next sounds `Mozart-ian'.
It sounds like the sort of breezy, clever one-act opera Mozart could have written.
In "The Beautiful Bridegroom," a widow decides to get a husband for herself rather than her unmarried daughters. This causes some family furor, and the local matchmaker and the widow's maid get in on the action with its twists and turns.
Indeed, "The Beautiful Bridegroom" does sound "Mozart-ian." Boston composer Dan Shore describes his work as a "Mozart pastiche." In the nicest possible way.
And in an interesting bit of programming, Worcester Opera Works is presenting "The Beautiful Bridegroom" as part of a double bill with an actual Mozart one-act opera, "The Impresario."
The operas will be performed at Gordon Hall, First Baptist Church, 111 Park Ave., Worcester, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Feb. 24. There will also be performances at 8 p.m. Feb. 29 in Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, and 3 p.m. March 2 in the Northampton Center for the Arts.
"It's fun, it's clever, it's very neoclassical and very tuneful," said Elaine Crane, executive director of Worcester Opera Works, about "The Beautiful Bridegroom."
The piece is unusual in that all six roles in the opera are for women (Crane is a cast member, playing the maid).
There are also several other unusual facets to this production.
For one thing, it is somewhat unusual for a person to be writing operas these days ... and having them staged.
Shore is pleasantly unpretentious about his calling. "You write the pieces hoping they'll be performed, and when they do you think `maybe I did something right,'" he said.
Meanwhile, Worcester Opera Works is still in its relative infancy as it endeavors to bring full-scale, home-grown operatic productions to Worcester. Last year it put on its first fully staged complete opera, "The Marriage of Figaro."
"We actually came out on top financially. ... I think we're really establishing our presence here," Crane said.
In her research she has uncovered a lot of captivating one-act operas, so the idea began to get formulated for an operatic one-act double bill.
In Mozart's "The Impresario," a small-time opera company has big-time problems that may sound familiar to some opera and theater companies working today: There's a rivalry going on between the resident diva and the new ingenue.
Crane said that Worcester Opera Works has set the Mozart piece - which she is directing - in the 1950s. "The Beautiful Bridegroom," meanwhile, is set in the late 18th century, complete with Regency-era costumes. "They are essentially switched in time," Crane said.
Rebecca Grimes directs "The Beautiful Bridegroom." The music director for both productions is Ian Watson.
"The Beautiful Bridegroom" was first performed last April by the New England Conservatory Opera Workshop, run by Patricia Weinmann. The director was Greg Smucker and the music director was Dan Wyneken. Grimes, who is the co-founder of Opera del West of Natick, was in the audience. It was at her suggestion that Shore send the score and a video to Crane.
"I thought it was really charming and just fell in love with it," Crane said.
Shore is an opera composer and playwright and has also written several children's musicals. He teaches at Emerson College.
The concept for "The Beautiful Bridegroom" came about as he was doing his research and came across a one-act play by the 18th century Danish-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg.
"I spend a good deal of time looking for potential ideas. It's so difficult to find something that will work well as an opera," Shore said.
Actually, "The Changed Bridegroom" was the last play Holberg ever wrote. "What struck me immediately was the cast - six women ... the play told the story of the aging widow Terentia, who, when trying to arrange a marriage for her elder daughter, decides that she herself should take a husband. A young husband. A very young husband. The dialogue was brisk and funny, the characters were sharply drawn, the action was clear, and the story itself took on the nature of a parody - it was like the plot of Donizetti's `Don Pasquale,' but with the genders reversed. Wouldn't that make a great opera?"
The problem with "The Changed Bridegroom," in Shore's opinion, was the ending. The 18th century wasn't ready for liberated widows. "I thought it started very well. There was just something about the ending that left a funny state
in my mouth."
Shore's subsequent adaptation changed the title, and the ending.
Musically, the piece recalls Mozart, but Shore didn't want to write a mere imitation. "I try to keep as much of that flavor as possible, but at the same time I don't want it to sound exactly like Mozart. I'm looking back from a contemporary point of view."
Last April's performance apparently went very well, although Shore is modest.
"I think so. The audience seemed to like it."
Shore, who lives in Boston with his wife, will be 33 on Wednesday. He is originally from Allentown, Pa., a place where there was no opera to speak of, he said, as much as he loved listening to it. But there was musical theater. And it made an early impression.
"It was definitely an interest in music, but interest in theater was not very far behind." At the age of 9 he was an usher at a summer theater and got to see shows like "The Pirates of Penzance" performed five or six times. Not too many years later he was writing children's musicals with a friend. Then he was writing musicals for older audiences. Then it was "a hop, skip and a jump to opera, which I always loved."
Writing opera in 2008 is a journey of a different sort.
"In many ways it's a strange uphill battle working in an art form that has been dead for a period of time - or so people will tell you. You're writing something you don't know if people are interested in seeing at all."
Still, the very fact "The Beautiful Bridegroom" is about to be performed is surely an encouraging sign.
"I hope so," Shore said. "I always tell my students that if everyone went to the opera once a year what a different country it would be."
`The Impresario' and `The Beautiful Bridegroom'
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Feb. 24.
Where: Gordon Hall, First Baptist Church, 111 Park Ave., Worcester.
How much: $18 general admission ($20 after today); $16 students and seniors ($18 after today); $10 children grades 12 and under. For tickets visit www.worcesteroperaworks.com or call (508) 930-7062.
CUTLINE: In a scene from "The Beautiful Bridegroom" are, from left, Elaine Crane, Erin Conley, Angeliki Theoharis, Jacque Eileen Wilson, Elisabeth Gondek and Lisa Woods
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Feb 17, 2008|
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