Just Love to Sing – a WinWinWin Situation

Franklin, NH. When you think that opera is just about the most expensive art form to produce, one might ask why one would, in fact, produce an opera in New Hampshire, let alone off the beaten path in Franklin, NH. Alas Jane Cormier and Carlos Martinez, founders, directors, and co-producers of Just Love to Sing (JLTS) have made it a mission to make opera available to many audience members who might not otherwise have the chance to venture to a metropolis for this art form. In fact, in their third year, they have moved their production site and new headquarters to the Franklin Opera House, a venue that, although refurbished, has been "undernourished" as the opera house that it was initially intended to be. Thanks to Cormier and Martinez's vision and concept as well as to their generosity as creatively caring producers (they receive no individual monetary compensation) young artists gain vital performance experience, as well as direction, as opera interns of sorts while making opera affordable to the general public. One could say that it's essentially a "win-win-win" situation for JLTS, the town of Franklin, as well as for the entire state of New Hampshire.

Last Saturday's fine production of Dido and Aeneas written by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) featured the lovely voice of mezzo-soprano lead, Eileen Christiansen, as Dido as well as the full bodied baritone of Andy Pappas as Aeneas, with noteworthy performances by all of the cast members in general, from Giliana Norkunas, the Sorceress, as well as that of the Two Witches, Linda Emmanuel and Susan DeLemus, to Erin Deady's Belinda. Although the leads may not have shared as much chemistry as one might have wished for in this historic opera about star-crossed lovers, both Felicia Gavilanes’ rich mezzo (Second Woman) coupled with her acting abilities as well as the pleasing utterances of tenor Andrew Sokol combined with a believable delivery as the Sailor, erased any sense of dissolution. Moreover, Gavilanes’ and Sokol’s wonderful performances in general served as fortifying connective tissue throughout the entire production.

Tthe small chamber orchestra played sublimely and is to be congratulated for their supreme musicianship and articulation coupled with nuance under the direction of Maestro Martinez. Their members include: Jessica Helie, First Violin; Sandy Dodd, Flute; Seth MacLeod, Cello; and Kathryn Southworth at the Harpsichord. Overall, the cast and crew of JLTS can be proud of their production of Dido and Aeneas; they were true to adhering to their mission statement: 'To educate, enlighten, and entertain the public with regard to opera and the musical arts.'

Three suggestions might be made for an even more successful future for this burgeoning opera company, however. They are: For summertime performances in particular, a quieter air conditioner unit might provide pre-cooling and be turned off entirely during the performance, (on occasion its drone upstaged some of the softer or pianissimo passages within the opera). Secondly, attention might be paid to costume choices as the lovely hue of Deady's gown and overall complexion often visually upstaged the Queen of Carthage's less obvious and somewhat less colorful, though, regal attire notwithstanding her crown of jewels. Last, given the size of the hall, perhaps consideration should be made to smaller gestures (if any at all) for a smaller opera house venue for a more realistic delivery.

For more information about Just Love to Sing and upcoming events, contact: www.justlovetosing.com and/or its general director, Jane Cormier, at 603-781-5695. For more information about the Franklin Opera House (FOH) and /or ticket information, contact: 603-934-1901 or info@franklinoperahouse.org

Ellen Nordstrom
Lyric Mezzo & Vocal Coach