If timing is everything, then the season lineup at Seagle Music Colony is right on the mark.
In its 102nd season, the Colony is premiering an opera take on “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” while the 50th anniversary of the play takes off in London.
Herschel Garfein, a Grammy-winning composer who wrote the opera, is working with singers from the Colony to put together the premier.
“He had never heard the piece sung; it had never stood on its feet,” said Darren Woods, the artistic director of the Colony, situated in Schroon Lake.
Further along in the season, they’ll be performing “My Fair Lady,” for the first time in 43 years.
“We’ve been wanting to do ‘My Fair Lady,’ again, but we didn’t know that it was going to be revived on Broadway in another year,” Woods said.
Thus, it all comes back to timing.
This year Colony has expanded on their usual formula of showing one opera by a living composer, a second classic opera, and two classical musicals. With their first show, “The Light in the Piazza,” the Colony is performing a musical by a living composer as well.
According to Woods, the Colony is also turning its attention to creating new work. This year, one composer will be working with resident artists on a new work. Eventually, the Colony will offer residencies to four or five composers each season.
There isn’t necessarily a recurring theme or element tying the 2017 season together, but the program is focused on the resident artists of the Colony and how the pieces can best work with their voices.
“All the repertoire every year we chose is with the singer in mind and what we can do to help them realize what they need to do for their training,” Woods said. The more comfortable an artist is with a piece, the better the performance.
Here’s a brief look into Woods’ highlights of the 2017 season:
“The Light in the Piazza,” by Adam Guettel.
“Not a lot of people know that Adam Guettel, the composer, is the son of Mary Rodgers of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein. So Adam Guettel is Richard Rodgers of Rodgers Hammerstein’s grandson. So he’s got musical theater in his DNA. This was his first musical that ended up on Broadway,” Woods said. The musical is set in Italy during the 1950s.
Southern mother Margaret Johnson (played by Jorie Moss) brings her developmentally stalled daughter Clara (played by Madeline Thibault) to Italy for a summer. Due to an accident when Clara was a child — she was thrown from a horse — Clara was always told that she would be slower to develop, so she acts much younger than her 26 years. Her mother is overprotective of Clara, but soon Clara falls in love with Fabrizio, an Italian man played by Jack Kay. Their romance makes Margaret question her own happiness and eventually leads her to her own life adventures. “It’s about change and growing up,” Woods said.
Several periactoids help transition the stage from an Italian cafe into an Italian plaza. “You’ll be on a big trip through Florence, Italy, in this production watching a young American woman fall in love with an Italian man,” Woods.
“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: A New Opera,” by Herschel Garfein.
The modern classic takes a comic look at the lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, minor characters from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” In this production, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become the main characters as they begin to question their fate as the scenes from “Hamlet” revolve around them. “It’s this really hilarious play where we see these two very minor characters; we see them backstage discovering their lives,” Woods said.
Rosencrantz is played by Aaron Stepanek and Joshua Cook and Guildenstern is played by Nathaniel Till and Zachary Crowle.
“The Magic Flute,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“Mozart was a big Mason, so a lot of this has Masonic influences in it. The idea of the temple and the [number] three. There are three ladies, there are three spirits. It’s written for the common man, it’s not as grand as his others so there’s spoken dialogue,” Woods said. The Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino (played by Remy Martin and Paul Wolfe) to rescue Princess Pamina (played by Leigh Folta and Alicia Russell) from the high priest Sarastro, whom the Queen describes as evil. Instead, Tamino discovers that Sarastro is good and learns the ideals of Sarastro’s community. It’s an opera of love and of the fight between good and evil.
In the Seagle Music Colony’s production, the songs will be performed in German, but the dialogue will be performed in English.
“My Fair Lady,” by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner
“Everybody knows the movie with Audrey Hepburn, and then Julie Andrews in the Broadway show. It’s one of the most popular musicals. It’s almost sold out here,” Woods said. It’s the story of Henry Higgins (played by Josh Cook), a professor who hears Eliza Doolittle (played by Bridget Cappel) a woman with a Cockney accent. Higgins tries to make Doolittle speak like a lady and pass her off as an Ascot, an educated lady and a member of high society. They fall in love, but she realizes that she’s just an experiment to him so she leaves. “Of course, as in all things in great musical comedy it all works out in the end and they get together. But unlike most musicals it’s a very subtle getting together,” Woods said.
Free Children’s show on Schroon Lake: “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day,” J. Offenbach and G. Rossini
“It’s a funny take on Little Red Riding Hood,” Woods said. It’s about 45 minutes long, with a Q and A session afterward with the performers. “I love children’s opera. I was raised in a small town in Texas and I always thought ‘If that had come to my school I would have known about opera so much earlier than I did. I love watching the children discover it for the first time,” Woods said.