One Last Thing Before They Leave

By Bob Keyes, Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

This summer, Maine's finest vocalists are staying home. Four of the state's most promising young singers will join the Portland Opera Repertory Theatre in July for the one-act farce "Dr. Miracle" by Georges Bizet. The four - Joshua Graves of Portland, Teresa Herold of Fort Fairfield, Elisabeth Marshall of Windham and Jason Plourde of Caribou - are the first members of a new collective known as Maine's Emerging Artists.

The program is a collaboration between the opera company and University of Southern Maine assistant professor of music Ellen Chickering, who recruited the vocalists and will direct the performances. The four will present "Dr. Miracle" July 9 in Harrison, July 10 on Peaks Island and July 14 at Ocean Park.

"Dr. Miracle" is one of two major summer efforts of the Portland Opera Repertory Theatre. The other is a two-performance run of "Faust" by Charles Gounod at Merrill Auditorium on July 25 and July 27.

Artistic director Bruce Hangen says the opera company will maintain a visible presence throughout July. Hoping to create a four-week festival atmosphere surrounding "Dr. Miracle" and "Faust," Hangen and his staff have scheduled lectures, movies and other events designed to take the edge off the opera. "The whole idea of a festival is that it is not just serious, elitist stuff. . .," Hangen says, promising lively stage action. "This is not park-and-bark opera."

Perhaps the most visible new initiative is the Maine's Emerging Artists program. The goal is to give Mainers a chance to hear the state's most promising young vocalists before they move elsewhere. Three of the four members of the group will leave Maine later this summer to further their education and vocal training.

Herold will attend Indiana University; Marshall is enrolling at the Opera Studio of the University of Maryland and Plourde will attend Indiana University-Bloomington. Graves recently graduated from the Eastman School of Music and is a voice teacher at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

"We have some wonderful talent in this state," says Chickering, who helped the Portland Opera Repertory Theatre develop a similar program for young artists when the company launched in 1995. "Like anything else, things from away seem better than the things we have right here. But the things we have right here are pretty amazing." "Dr. Miracle" will be presented in English with minimal staging. Instead of a full orchestra, pianist Judith Quimby will accompany the vocalists.

As for "Faust," Hangen chose it as the company's marquee event for several reasons. "First, it's a great opera with outstanding tunes. It had its heyday about 50 years ago, but it's still being presented, and lately increasingly so, by companies all over the world. So it's enjoying a revival of sorts," he says. One popular theory suggests "Faust" is especially timely in these days of widespread world conflict because of its good-vs.-evil theme. That may be true, Hangen admits, but the opera's popularity never waned.

The Portland version will be mostly musical. Other versions of "Faust" often include segments of ballet. Hangen left out the dancing because he didn't want to detract from the focus. "The music that Gounod composed doesn't necessarily support all of the fu-fu, all of the spectacle. The music is far more personal. This is an outstanding opportunity to feel the music played out as Gounod intended."

A seven-member cast will present the opera, including two members of the Metropolitan Opera: Alfred Walker as Mephistopheles and Sandra Lopez at Marguerite.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:
© 2002 - Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare get_next_prev() (previously declared in /home/content/p/o/r/portop/html/includes/get_next_prev.php:3) in /home/content/p/o/r/portop/html/includes/get_next_prev.php on line 36