- Resident Artists
Well, the countdown continues! Today I went to the warehouse to check on what I might need to bring with us and got a wonderful preview of our set. The folks at the warehouse were excited to show me all of the bells and whistles, and I have to say, it may be our cutest set ever! Not only is it adorable, but it is beautiful and painterly, based heavily on the artistic style of Thomas Hart Benton.
More important to me while wearing my tour manager hat, is the amazing and ingenious ease with which it has been designed and executed. No tools are needed in the set up or strike. Our shop has truly outdone themselves. Kudos to Jim Sisemore, Jonah Stagg and Linda McGinnis for a fantastic set and an enthusiastic and informative introduction to it—I cannot wait to see the cast’s faces when they see the world that has been built for them!
Speaking of whom…Last week I promised you an introduction to our cast. Three of our four singers are veterans for the program in some form or another, the “grand old man” (and I use that term facetiously—any artist younger than me I consider a young artist!) of the program is baritone Stacey Murdock, for whom the role of the quick-witted and charming charlatan Dr. Dulcamara was created. Stacey has been with us for 6 (!!!) seasons and keeps coming back more motivated, charming and excited than the season before. Stacey has worked all over the Northwest and the United States. Most recently Eastern Oregon University imported him to play the Phantom in their production of Phantom of the Opera, but he has also sung everything from Curly in Oklahoma to Junius in The Rape of Lucretia to Pooh-Bah in The Mikado. You may not know who he is going to be when you see Stacey Murdock in a show, but you will always know that you are getting an outstanding performance.
Ainsley Soutiere hales from Canada and is a lovely soprano, with a beautiful voice (of course), and possessed of a wicked sense of humor, that, refreshingly for the soprano, makes its way on stage. My little boy, Greer, saw Ainsley last year in Opera Improv and laughed maniacally at Ainsley’s portrayal of a girl transformed into an outraged chicken by her blundering fairy godfather (played by a Stacey Murdock, startled to find himself upstaged by an irate fowl). She is just completing a tour similar to ours in Canada’s hinterlands. She may feel she has never left Nova Scotia given what the weather is supposed to be like this winter! She is a graduate of Juilliard (talk to her about playing the Juilliard card sometime to make it through airport security faster! Or her description of the cafeteria ladies at the school—you will never view the school (or its graduates) the same way again!), and I feel very fortunate to have her joining us for a second season. Ainsley is, of course, playing the feisty Adina, deserving object of Nemorino’s adoration.
Playing the lovesick tenor (are there any other kind?) is the newly transplanted, Daniel Buchanan. Dan used last year’s POGO tour as a test drive for Portland, too. I guess the city suited him because he and his lovely wife have come in and begun making a fabulous niche for themselves. Dan comes to us from Houston, where he was working doing outreach and education at the Houston Grand Opera. Dan is a man of many talents with an extensive resume and an adventurous spirit. He suits Portland Opera To Go and Oregon very well!
Our newbie to POGO, though not to Portland Opera, is Eric Hundtoft, playing the blustering braggart, Belcore, rival to Nemorino for the lovely Adina. It goes without saying, of course, that since Eric is a baritone and Dan a tenor that Eric’s character does not win fair maiden. Eric has been with the Portland Opera family, singing in the chorus for several seasons. In addition, he has made many appearances in roles around the Northwest with Opera Theater Oregon, Obsidian Opera, and so many other gigs I cannot even count them! Eric is a joy to watch and hear—you can genuinely see his joy when he is onstage, and it is absolutely contagious. I am so happy to welcome him to POGO!
Last but not least, let me mention our pianist, David Saffert. Great pianists can be had in this town, but great pianists interested in dedicating three months of their lives to Portland Opera To Go are not. Fantastic pianists are typically working multiple gigs and rearranging or finding subs to fill in for you when you are in Paisley, Oregon can be a daunting task that most pianists don’t want to do. David plays around town and for Oregon Ballet Theater, which was kind enough to lend him to us for the tour. David is a super musician with a fine feel for accompanying—it will be fun to sing with him!
So there you have it, our intrepid little company, Portland Opera To Go. Rehearsals begin next week—then you’ll be able to see some photos of that process, check out pics of our gorgeous set, and, if we are lucky, start to hear from some of the other members of the group. Hee, hee—I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve!
The Daring Diva