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'PAGLIACCI' New performance takes on different stage

Saturday, November 6, 2004

The performance is presented by Opera Western Reserve.
After last year's successful production of "La Traviata," Youngstown Opera Guild was asked, "What are you doing next?" The reply is "Pagliacci" on the auditorium stage. This is the first performance presented by Opera Western Reserve, the production arm of YOG.
In 2003 both the performance and dinner took place in the Stambaugh Ballroom. This year, only the pre-opera dinner presented by Youngstown Opera Guild will be there.
"We thought that we need to give ourselves more flexibility where staging is concerned. The stage down in the ballroom is very tiny. We also needed to accommodate more people. Unfortunately, we had to turn people away for 'La Traviata.' So the answer simply was let's move upstairs," said David Vosburgh, artistic director of Opera Western Reserve.
"Pagliacci," composed by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, is the story of a traveling theater troupe in 19th century Italy. The main actors are Canio and his wife, Nedda. Nedda falls in love with a local villager, creating scenes full of love, betrayal and murderous rage.
Reasons to stay
Several reasons prompted the decision to remain at the Stambaugh site.
"We certainly have a stellar venue in which to put it. It's a comfortable place for audiences, and it's beautiful to be in," said Vosburgh.
The location also gives YOG a separate location to have the dinner and then go to the auditorium, a more comfortable space with better sight lines for the performance.
"When dinner is finished, we only have to wait for the audience to come upstairs. We don't have to compensate for the time that the wait staff requires to clear everything. They can do their job without us being in the way. We also can accommodate the Opera Guild, who's sponsoring the dinner, and they can almost double the size," said Vosburgh.
James Boyd, general director of Opera Western Reserve, recognizes additional advantages of using this performance space.
"The hall has really good acoustics, which helps with the recruitment of singers and also for the orchestra. If they know they will work there with a really good conductor and a really good stage director, they are much more likely to come here."
Susan Davenny Wyner is Opera Western Reserve's conductor. Her selection was simple since Nedda (Misook Yun), Tonio (Brian Keith Johnson) and Boyd, a clarinetist, have worked with her at Warren Philharmonic Orchestra, where she is also the conductor. Vosburgh met Davenny Wyner when he interviewed her on a show that he previously hosted on WYSU.
"The thing that made it a no-brainer for us to ask her was the fact that she had a career ... singing opera with major institutions in the States. She had an understanding of vocalists, and now she's an orchestral conductor, and she understands how to work with the orchestra," stated Boyd.
The relocation also gives the arts organization an opportunity to hold an open rehearsal for middle school and high school pupils Thursday.
"This is mainly to introduce students to an art form that they may not be familiar with. They will realize that not only is it good music, but it's exciting theater; opera is nothing frightening. It's fun. It's exciting. It's not any different from 'Phantom of the Opera' or 'Miss Saigon' or 'Rent.' It's actors standing on stage and singing and acting at the same time," said Vosburgh.
Group's challenge
The move shows how much the group has grown since the joint production of "Madama Butterfly" with Youngstown State University two years ago and the test they face with this change as they continue to grow as an arts organization.
"The challenge will be to justify it with a large enough audience. We don't have any illusions that we'll fill all 2,400 seats, and this way we don't have to turn anyone away," said Vosburgh.
Boyd envisions a successful endeavor as the Valley is introduced to the new regional opera company.
"I really honestly believe that with the singers, and the orchestra and the staff people we have assembled around this, their expectations will have been exceeded by what they hear. We're bringing in some singers that will knock their socks off."