WHAT: Puccini’s “Suor Angelica”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State St., Albany
HOW MUCH: $15 suggested donation
MORE INFO: 436-8544, www.mosaic-arts.org
Kelly Hutchinson has accomplished a lot in the two years since she moved to the Capital Region from Ohio.
After completing her graduate degree in voice at the College-Conservatory of Cincinnati, she founded a multi-discipline performing arts group, Mosaic-Arts, that has become a raging success.
“We’ve become part of the fabric of the community,” Hutchinson said.
The group debuted last October with a performance of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” a scaled-down production without sets at Westminster Presbyterian Church that garnered rave reviews. The second show, “A Strauss Evening,” with piano and four singers, including Hutchinson, was well-received, and the third offering, Puccini’s “Suor Angelica,” is set for Friday.
“Mosaic-Arts has been on fire ever since the Gluck,” Hutchinson said. “That’s thanks to the high quality of talent.”
When she was in college studying opera, she became interested in directing not just operas, such as the baroque opera “Dido and Aeneas,” but theater productions like “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” This got her thinking.
“I dreamed about having a company that would connect with different disciplines. We’re so often removed from one another,” she said. “It’s good to share knowledge.”
When she moved to the Albany area, one of her first gigs was a concert at the University at Albany, where she was one of those singing arias. That’s where she met soprano Vedrana Kalas, mezzo-soprano Kara Cornell, pianist Michael Clement and pianist/conductor Dan Foster, filling in for David Griggs-Janower, who was on sabbatical. Foster also had his own period ensemble, the Aoede Consort, which had recently debuted.
When Kalas and Cornell asked Hutchinson about directing the Gluck, Hutchinson said she got all excited.
“I knew it was time to start the company,” she said.
Since “Orfeo” lent itself to having dancers and Cornell had sung with Nacre Dance Company, which specializes in historic choreography, Hutchinson turned to Beth Hartle Fecteau, the company’s artistic director. Five dancers signed on and Fecteau created movement, which resembled poses on ancient Greek vases. The production also needed a chorus, and Foster’s group was happy to sing. It also helped that besides specializing in early music, the group could independently rehearse without involving everyone else.
The church sanctuary was perfect for the opera’s setting, so little had to be done to dress it up, she said. Performing in this type of locale also forced the performers to focus on the opera’s details and movement.
“We had none of the trappings, so we wouldn’t have the audience getting bored and looking at the sets,” Hutchinson said laughing. “We focused on the drama and gleaned everything from it.”
The Puccini, for Friday’s performance, was chosen because it was a one-act, very manageable time-wise, and the music was very accessible. It also made casting easy since it’s set in a convent. Mezzo-soprano Lucille Beer also signed on for one of the leads.
“There are always lots of women who want to do things,” Hutchinson said.
The Nacre Dance Company, the Saratoga Children’s Chorus, pianist Joshua Tanis and organist Al Fedak are also involved. There will also be a brief concert of operatic arias and a rare organ sonata by Bellini.
It’s hard for Hutchinson to conceive of how this season has evolved.
“We were just going to do a couple of shows,” she said. “Now it’s a real-life thing.”
It has taken a small army of people to put all these shows together and each has taken on added responsibilities besides maintaining regular day jobs, which amazes Hutchinson.
“We’ve had to turn projects down because everyone has now a dual career,” she said. “I’ve become a clearinghouse. There’s no way I could have done all this.”
What little time she has she’s devoting to researching funding opportunities and getting a non-profit status for the group. She’s also scouting locations as performance possibilities, which includes outdoor facilities for summer productions.
Although Hutchinson wants Mosaic-Arts to be a self-sufficient company that has the ability to partner with similar groups, she wants to maintain its own artistic level, something she said wouldn’t be too difficult with the region’s huge pool of talent. One of the many goals she has already partially met is to provide performance opportunities to young singers.
For the Strauss evening, student Hannah Moss, a junior at Russell Sage College, got a chance to sing a few arias. Other dreams include having a company orchestra, or being at least able to hire one, and having a company space.
Getting kids involved is another goal. This summer at Westminster, there will be an eight-week summer training program that kids between 10 and 18 can take.
Children, split into age groups, will have two group classes a week in singing, dance and theater and two private weekly coaching sessions. There will be a gala at the end of the session at 7 p.m. Aug. 29.
Mosaic-Arts is also branching out beyond the church. Today at 8 p.m. at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, it will present the Puccini opera. On June 10, as part of the Saratoga ArtsFest, it will perform the Gluck opera at the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs ($15, or $10 with pass).
“We never thought we’d get to this point,” Hutchinson said. “We’re doing things in 10 months that we thought we’d be doing in five years. It blows my mind.”
Categories: Life and Arts