Fresco Opera Theatre’s Opera Storytellers: A Story Worth Hearing
On Friday, October 6, Fresco Opera Theatre did what they have come to be known to do best: a new and creative way to bring operatic classics to the public. Opera Storytellers was the first of three such events, the latest production from the creative team that brought Madison shows such as The Poe Requiem, Clara, Opera Smackdown, and The Real Divas of Dane County. In this latest work, five singers joined guitarist Tom Kastle to explore the stories behind some of opera’s classic arias. Sopranos Melanie Cain, Hannah Kauffmann, and Marie McManama, and mezzo-sopranos Kassy Coleman and Kirstin Roble, delighted audiences with arias such as “O mio babbino caro,” Carmen’s “Habenera,” and “The Flower Duet.”
The real magic of this approach to an aria recital was the intimate nature of the venue (in this case, the SchoolGrounds coffee house in Cottage Grove) combined with the insightful and humorous storytelling of Mr. Kastle as he introduced each song. Giving both the dramatic background as well as information about each opera’s creation, Mr. Kastle helped the audience come to better understand these songs they have heard many times. With each piece then presented by sensitive singing actors, there was a palpable sense of the stories coming to life in performance. It also helped to reinforce the often-overlooked fact that these operatic pieces were the “pop music” of their respective times. Hearing these pieces performed with only voice and guitar, rather than full orchestra, gave them a folk-song-like quality that fit the setting beautifully and allowed the audience to experience these grand operatic staples in a less grand, but no less spectacular, manner.
With two more unique Opera Storytellers performances scheduled on the coming Fridays, it would be well-worth your time to seek them out. With Fresco’s quality musicians and determination to make opera accessible to all, their Opera Storytellers performances will give you a story worth hearing.