Seagle set to tackle less familiar operas, including Russian work

When the Seagle Music Colony opens its main stage season Wednesday, July 3, three of the four operas
This is a scene from "Streetscene" at Seagle Music Colony.
This is a scene from "Streetscene" at Seagle Music Colony.

When the Seagle Music Colony opens its main stage season Wednesday, July 3, three of the four operas may not be familiar.

“There are more unknown shows than is typical,” said Tony Kostecki, the company’s general manager. “But it’s good for the singers.”

Those singers, which this year numbers 32 and are coming from all over the country, are mostly graduate students or are just starting their careers. For 98 years, the Colony has presented operas, operettas and, in recent years, musicals that will help its singers to broaden their careers and understanding of what they need to be successful professionally.

Seagle Music Colony

• Weill, “Street Scene”: 8 p.m. July 3, 6, 7; 2 p.m. July 5

• Britten, “Albert Herring”: 8 p.m. July 17, 18, 20; 2 p.m. July 19

• Tchaikovsky, “Eugene Onegin”: 8 p.m. July 31, Aug. 1, 3; 2 p.m. Aug. 2

• “42nd Street”: 8 p.m. Aug. 14, 15, 17; 2 p.m. Aug. 16

WHERE: Oscar Seagle Memorial Theatre, 999 Charley Hill Road, Schroon Lake

HOW MUCH: $25, $30

MORE INFO: 532-7875;

This season, Kostecki and Darren Keith Woods, who also runs Fort Worth Opera and is the Colony’s artistic director, heard 400 singers at auditions held in January at six different music schools around the country.

“It was a plethora of riches,” Kostecki said. “The hardest thing is to weed them down. We can’t choose them all.”

Because Seagle already had chosen the operas they wanted to do, they have more men coming this season. Also, some singers asked to return, which is usually permitted for another season.

“We wanted good roles for the artists to help with their training,” he said. “We like to feature each singer over the summer, but we also consider what people want to see.”

Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” opens July 3. The opera was written in 1947 when Weill’s shows were already guaranteed Broadway hits. Based on Elmer Rice’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of 1929, the story focuses on a day in the life in a New York City tenement house. With its huge cast, which includes several immigrants, the plot centers on the Maurrants family as their domestic problems spin out of control into adultery and murder.

“We’d done ‘Street Scene’ before and it was well received,” Kostecki said. “It’s chock full of roles.”

Although Langston Hughes wrote most of the lyrics, Weill worked with Rice, who adapted his original script, which is one reason there’s so much dialogue, Kostecki said. The combination of singing with dialogue and Weill’s particular musical idiom are what makes the opera a challenge, he said.

Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring” will open July 17. Written in 1947 after Britten’s great success with “The Rape of Lucretia,” the comic opera is based on de Maupassant’s 1887 short story, “Le Rosier de Madame Husson.” The opera had its U.S. premiere in 1949 at Tanglewood.

The opera tells of how Albert Herring was chosen as a festival May King because there were no girls in a village that were virginal enough to be crowned as May Queen. What he does with his prize shocks the village.

“There’s a good bit of singing, although it’s more of an ensemble piece than one that uses a chorus,” Kostecki said.

Big challenge

The big challenge for the company will be Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” which opens July 31. Written entirely by the composer, it premiered in 1879 in Moscow.

“We had a great baritone returning and because we’re doing it in Russian, we’re having a Russian speaker come up from New York City to help,” Kostecki said. “It’s a good project and very ambitious.”

The story tells of two young men who come to visit Tatiana and Olga, two sisters, in the country. One is Olga’s beau; the other is the sophisticated Onegin, who immediately impresses Tatiana. She declares her love for him and he condescendingly rejects her. When he flirts with Olga, her beau challenges him to a duel and is killed. Years later, Onegin meets the husband of Tatiana, who tells him how happy he is. But Onegin has not had a good life and appeals to Tatiana to love him again. This time she rejects him.

In Russia, the opera is a great favorite, but U.S. productions have been few, until this year when the Metropolitan Opera will present a new production.

“The language is the hardest,” Kostecki said. “But the opera is good for the singers to know and, of course, it has Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music.”

The opera will be sung in Russian with English supertitles.

For the past few years, the Colony has presented musicals. This is to broaden the range of the singers by having them learn to dance, do comedy, and sing in a non-operatic way. This season, it’s “42nd Street,” which opens Aug. 14.

“We’ve not done the show before, but we’re going to give it a try,” Kostecki said with a laugh. “It’s dance heavy and a great challenge.”

The show premiered in 1980 and quickly became a long-running hit that won a Tony Award for Best Musical. The story is about the efforts of a famed but dictatorial Broadway director to put on a hit musical during the Great Depression.

All the shows have a two-piano accompaniment with all sets built on site overseen by longtime colleague Richard Kagy. Some costumes are rented, Kostecki said.

Other events

Besides the operas, the other events during the season include:

• The annual Patrice Munsel Gala on July 13, a catered affair with the Frank Conti Band at the Colony

• The children’s opera of “Three Little Pigs” at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on July 13 at the Schroon Lake Boathouse

• The popular Vespers concerts at 5 p.m. July 28, Aug. 11, and 18 at the Colony

• A musical revue of Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ “Music of the Night” at 7:30 p.m. July 20 at Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek, and 8 p.m. July 25 and 2 p.m. July 26 at the Schroon Lake Center School auditorium.

After the season, four singers stay to tour a children’s opera to 20 schools in the area.

“Last season was our first with 12 schools and was well received,” Kostecki said.

Funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he said it was just one more way to expand the Colony’s offerings and show why readers of the Glens Falls Post-Star voted it as the No. 1 attraction in the region in 2013.

Categories: Entertainment

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