In the landscape of candy pop music, four-chord Billboard hits, monotonous hooks and Ice JJ Fish, it was incredibly refreshing to spend a night allowing artfully crafted classical music to wash over the senses. On the night of Saturday 5th November The Picoplat Young Artist Collective presented The Impresario and Broadway Revue, a night of opera, operetta and timeless music at he Central Bank Auditorium. Under the direction of Helmer Hilwig and music direction by June Nathaniel, artists from the very young to the very seasoned brought to life Mozart’s operatic comedy The Impresario as well as familiar (to those who know operettas and musicals of the 1800s and 1900s) pieces from musicals like The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and Show Boat. The night was truly an ode to legendary composers and lyricists like Mozart, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II who undoubtedly shaped the landscape of music and the modern musical.
Photo Captions: Anneliese Kelly performs 'Poor wand’ring one' (left) and Jake Salloum performs 'Oh there is not one maiden breast' from The Pirates of Penzance | Photo Credit: Carl Anthony Hines
I must grudgingly admit that I arrived to the venue a tad bit late thanks to a bit (and by a bit I mean a lot) of construction on the Beetham Highway. Frustrating isn’t the word to describe my state walking into the auditorium, but thanks to the incredible talent on stage, I quickly forgot about that debacle. Most regrettably I missed the opportunity to hear Shellon Antoine and Male Chorus perform “Ol’ Man River”; a song synonymous for the identity of the bass voice. What I did see however; ‘Pour oh pour the Pirate Sherry‘ by Shellon Antoine and male chorus, ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’ by Krisson Joseph and ensemble; ‘Oh there is not one maiden breast’ by Jake Salloum with female chorus; ‘Poor wand’ring one’ by Anneliese Kelly with female chorus and the ‘Finale‘ which concluded the Pirates of Penzance and wrapped up the first half of the show, was an impressive command of vocal technique. It was a night of soaring sopranos, alluring altos, tender tenors and booming basses. It brought me back to days of popping the Sound of Music tape in the old VCR and sitting in front the television mesmerized by the great diva Julie Andrews. My only reservation for the first half of the program was the lack of connection to the material of each performance. The emphasis was heavy on the singing and the acting fell through the cracks. The performers felt frozen on stage when not singing, and torn between singing and acting during scenes. Were it a standard recital, the work done would be stellar. Stepping into the realm of operetta, however, requires a more complete approach to the body of work.
Notwithstanding the incredible work of the Broadway Revue, the true magic of the night lay in The Impresario. Curtains rose on Buff (Krisson Joseph) who, without waiting for the maestro (effortlessly and expertly played by Professor Hayward Mickens) launched into a brassy aria, showing the power and sensuality of a bass/baritone. This, having only minutes before closed the first half with the tongue-twisting and demanding number “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”. His impromptu rehearsal is interrupted by Monsieur Vogelsang (Kendall Reid), the impresario of the yet to be named theatrical company with the company’s biggest (and seemingly only patron) Madam Hertz, played by Natalia Dopwell.
Absolutely no stranger to the world of classical music and a formidable leading lady, Dopwell showed exactly why her name holds such acclaim. Her soaring soprano range and smooth and light vibrato electrified her performance as Madame Hertz. She wowed the crowd with her portrayal of the pseudo-ingénue, using her coquettish wiles and an undertone of severity to manipulate outcomes in her favor. Her rendition of the “audition” piece “Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde” (”There tolls the hour of departure”) was simply stunning. There were moments of velvety high soprano that rung through the hall with such clarity and her poise could be heard in every note. As the rival soprano diva Mademoiselle Silberklang, Ayrice Wilson complimented her superbly, showing the other commanding and bordering villainous side of the soprano voice. Also coming in for her “audition”, her rendition of “Bester Jüngling” (Dearest Young”) had Buff eating out of her hands. Her unique and poignant soprano combated Dopwell’s light and silky voice, most pointedly so in their battle of the divas. This is where the hilarious colloquial rewrite of the piece truly shone as the divas listed their many accomplishments of Girl School functions and community center affairs across Trinidad and Tobago. Notable mention goes to Diahann White who throughout the performance interjected the diva duel with a feistiness only a mezzo-soprano can.
The Impresario and Broadway Revue was undoubtedly a very enjoyable night, and offered an evening of entertainment for classical music enthusiasts, musical lovers, theatre goers and patrons of the arts. It was truly a job well done.
About the Author:
Isaiah is a graduate of the Musical and Dramatic Academy of New York and is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association through its Equity Membership Candidate Program. He is also a member of The Gentlemen; a hip hop dance group based in San Fernando. He has performed extensively in musicals both local and internationally. Credits include West Side Story (Fireside Dinner Theatre), Chicago (Potsdam Music Theatre) and Crazy For You (Queen’s Hall).