June 14, 2012 —
While opera has long been considered an art form considered by many to be “an acquired taste,” Delaware Valley Opera Company’s (DVO) artistic director Carol Castel is bound and determined to dispel that myth once and for all. To that end, Castel and Co. have designed the 2012 season as a pastiche, inspired by the works of William Shakespeare, whose prolific body of work has been the catalyst for musical interpretation, enduring the test of time since his birth in 1564.
The 2012 season, “Shakespeare Sings” promises to live up to Castels’ vision, which includes “attracting all factions of the community, by presenting a traditional opera (Rossini’s “Otello”), Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” and Otto Nicolai’s operetta, “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” With such a diverse program, the DVO will undoubtedly live up to it’s commitment to offer up “something for everyone” and Castel continues to steer the company toward community involvement, participation and spirit.
“We want the entire community to be aware that opera is not just about singers,” she shared with me in between Otello rehearsals. “Local dancers, singers, scenic designers and even jugglers are just a few of the residents we are reaching out to. We chose this season based on the variety and desire to encourage those who have not yet experienced the DVO.”
Deciding to employ a “theme” for the entire season is inspired, and presenting three different form of musical theatre, attracting a new audience, sounds like a good idea. Asking Castel about the inclusion of a Broadway musical, she said, “Traditional opera is really just musical theatre of a different sort. The art form has evolved over the years and taken on many forms, which has enabled classical music [and in the case of “Kiss Me Kate”] to reach a wider audience.”
A 1948 Tony-Award-winning musical with music and lyrics by Porter, the story involves the production of a musical version of Shakespeare's “The Taming of the Shrew” and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show's director, producer and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul with some gangsters.
The first production on the bill, “Otello,” is a story often thought to be about race, but Castel expounded on that misconception. “The racial thing is a metaphor” she explained. “The story is about someone who is different and that theme is timeless and universal. It’s really an allegory. Everyone aspires to be ‘different- its an aspect of the human condition” she said.
The third offering, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” falls somewhere between the other two. Operetta “grew out of the French opera comique around the middle of the 19th century, to satisfy a need for short, light works in contrast to the full-length entertainment of the increasingly serious opera being offered up” (www.wikipedia.org ). Seeking to satisfy the purists, while attracting the musical theatre enthusiast and drawing young folks into an unexplored world, the 2012 season of the DVO sounds as if it will fulfill the promises offered. Seizing on the many gifts of local talents, including “some incredible voices,” the community involvement provides a “rich pocket of opportunity,” Castel said, and the company is excited to share.
Educational outreach is a vital part of the organization’s commitment and includes “opportunities for teachers and students to participate in the professional production and performance of opera and musical theatre in our area.” An outreach “Youth experience,” a professional training program and workshop retreats are but a few of the programs offered, and the upcoming season, which debuts “Otello” on June 15, promises something for everyone. Visit www.delawarevalleyopera.org  or call 845/252-3136.