Opera Providence brings “Merry Widow” to Cranston


Opera Providence’s “The Merry Widow” will close out their 2011-2012 season with a weekend at Cranston’s Park Theatre on June 15. The company will be performing the English version of Franz Lehar’s comedic operetta, which tells the story of wealthy widow Hanna Glawari. North Providence’s Diana McVey plays the title role.

Rene de la Garza, artistic director of the company, said Glawari must not only have a powerful soprano, but must be a fantastic actress and beautiful woman. De la Garza said McVey has all that. Other Opera Providence regulars in the cast include Frederic Scheff, Paul Soper and Rachel Schmiege.

Although the opera opens on June 15, de la Garza’s singers and musicians haven’t been undergoing months of rehearsals. De la Garza said that is because operas differ from plays or musicals and typically have abbreviated rehearsal schedules. The leads learn their music independently, and come to the first rehearsal with their material entirely memorized. Rehearsals typically last 10 days, during which the singers learn their stage directions and choreography.

“You just open the package, add water and stir it,” said de la Garza.

Often, players have already played the roles before, which is the case with some of the Opera Providence cast. De la Garza has chosen professional singers to portray the principal characters, but has a mix of experienced and novice singers in the chorus.

“Some are university students,” he said, “but we also have a man in his 60s. They’re all different types.”

The cast is comprised of 28 singers, joined by a seven-piece orchestra. The well-known Christopher McMullen-Laird, back from Germany for the production, will conduct the opera.

Everett Hoag is the costume designer, and he promises the audience a “feast for the eyes.” Hoag has been collaborating with local boutiques for jewelry, tuxedos and other specialty pieces.

“In order to show opulence, everything is beaded, and ribboned and trimmed,” he said.

Although the show will have a classic sensibility, de la Garza said audiences should abandon their stereotypical attitudes of opera.

“There’s a lot of humor,” he said, describing it as bawdy. “It’s an accessible piece.”

Jason Shealy, a Cranston resident who is making his debut performance with the company as Bagdonovich, is excited to be a part of “The Merry Widow.”

“I can’t overstate the value of it being in English,” he said. “Opera is great, it’s just not always in English.”

Shealy said the language will help people understand an art form that is often thought of as inaccessible. In English, Shealy said, it’s almost like musical theater.

“It was Broadway before Broadway was Broadway,” he said.

De la Garza agreed, likening it to the Stephen Sondheim operetta and Broadway musical, “Sweeney Todd.”

“The Merry Widow” will have two performances, June 15 and 16 at Cranston’s Park Theatre in Rolfe Square.

Robert DeRobbio, Opera Providence’s president, said the Park is the perfect venue for the company. Its 1,000-seat size allows them to do multiple shows to accommodate more people’s schedules, without the worry that the venue is too big to fill.

“You have to pick just one night when you’re at the Vets Auditorium or PPAC,” he said.

DeRobbio is excited to bring “The Merry Widow” to the Park, where they’ve performed twice. There will also be a preview of the show at the Metacomet Country Club on Friday, June 8. Tickets are $75 (event only) and can be purchased at www.operaprovidence.org.

“If you want to give opera a try, this is the one to come see,” said DeRobbio. “It encompasses every type of theater a person can imagine. And it’s not stuffy and high society; it’s a production for everyone.”

“The Merry Widow” will have two 8 p.m. performances on June 15 and 16 at the Park Theatre, 848 Park Ave. in Cranston. Tickets are $35 and $60, with senior and group discounts available. Purchase tickets by calling the Opera Providence office at (401) 331-6060 or call the Park Theatre Box Office at (401) 467-7275. For more information, visit www.OperaProvidence.org


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