The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

JUNE 24, 2011


spotlight on arts

‘Sail the ocean blue’ at Caramoor’s opening night

GABE PALACIO PHOTO

HMS Pinafore

Tynan Davis, Jason Plourde, Robert McPherson, Georgia Jarman, Jorell Williams, Vanessa Cariddi, and Scott Bearden during the dress rehearsal for Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, which opens the 2011 Caramoor International Music Festival this Saturday, June 25.

 
By MARY LEGRAND

Caramoor, where inspiring music and beautiful grounds are a match made in heaven, celebrates the opening of its 66th season with a series of gala events this weekend. Located amid 90-acres of Italianate architecture and gardens off Girdle Ridge Road in Katonah, Caramoor began its life as a cultural hub in the late 1930s when founders Walter and Lucie Rosen began to present private concerts in the Music Room of their home, now called Rosen House.

This year’s International Music Festival season kicks off tomorrow — Saturday, June 25 — with a Bel Canto at Caramoor presentation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” one of the legendary duos most popular operettas.

The 8:30 p.m. performance features Caramoor’s director of opera, Will Crutchfield, conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a bevy of well-known soloists. Tickets range from $22 to $81 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 232-1252 or going to www.caramoor.org.

In addition, tickets to the entire opening night gala celebration are $600, $1,250 and $2,500, and include pre-concert cocktails, dinner, priority performance seating and an opportunity, for an additional $250, to attend the “After Dark” party. Call Caramoor’s special events office at 232-1492 for details.

Mr. Crutchfield is excited to offer “Pinafore,” calling it an unusual choice for Caramoor’s opening night. “I always wanted to do Gilbert & Sullivan,” he said, adding that the decision to move “Pinafore” to opening night was a great choice by executive director Michael Barrett and the Caramoor board.

Opening night entertainment varies from year to year, said Mr. Barrett. “Last year we did an all-Mozart concert. It was so exalted and so perfect that this year we decided to go in a completely different direction, something celebratory and fun, serious in its own way but also very fresh. The audience is going to have a great, great time.”

Ticketholders are also invited to come early tomorrow for a chance to picnic and enjoy touring Caramoor’s gardens as well as listen to two performance-based lectures. At 4:30 p.m., Bel Canto Young Artists presents “The Lass That Loves a Sailor,” a selection of humorous and sentimental songs from the era leading up to Gilbert & Sullivan, along with some sea chanties Caramoor representatives say lend “historical meaning to the idea of ‘swearing like a sailor.’

“The English Musical Stage” follows at 5:30 p.m., again with the Bel Canto Young Artists performing a mini-recital of operatic music from Purcell to Sullivan.

“These are for people who really want the background of Arthur Sullivan, to learn what else was going on in London at the time, to get a better sense of what ‘Pinafore’ is making fun of, the British Royal Navy, such as it was back then,” Mr. Barrett said. “Those pre-concert activities are very popular and people love them. The speakers and performers are very good, and the events prepare you in a deep way for the evening performance.”

Bel canto opera “has an inherent appeal,” said Mr. Crutchfield, whose Bel Canto at Caramoor is in its 15th season. Tomorrow’s “Pinafore” performance stars soprano Georgia Jarman; tenor Robert McPherson; mezzo-sopranos Vanessa Cariddi and Robin Flynn; baritones Scott Bearden, Jorell Williams and Jason Plourde; and basses Nicholas Masters and Jeffrey Beruan.

“As a piece of theater, ‘Pinafore’ is a cheerful satire on the arrival of modernity, bureaucracy and democratic ideals to the Royal Navy of Queen Victoria’s era,” Mr. Crutchfield said. “As a piece of music, it is England’s version of ‘bel canto’ comic opera, plain and simple. That fact has been obscured by the long history of specialized Gilbert & Sullivan troupes, outside the operatic mainstream. With this production, I have the opportunity to realize my long-standing desire to present a version that does full justice to the brilliant music and the operatic vocal writing.”

Mr. Crutchfield’s background in bel canto opera leads Bel Canto at Caramoor to present predominantly works by Italian composers Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini, Mr. Barrett said.

But in pitching the idea of presenting “Pinafore,” Mr. Crutchfield “made a terrific case that Arthur Sullivan was actually very well trained in that kind of music,” Mr. Barrett continued. “In fact in London, Sullivan created many of the piano scores of operas in the period just following the bel canto heyday. It was a perfect timing thing Sullivan found in his career. He had the experience knowing the bel canto, and then he found himself falling into writing operettas. Sullivan didn’t say, ‘I’m going to be an operetta composer,’ he wrote one and it turned into a big hit. It became be the most lucrative thing Sullivan could do.”

Caramoor’s season-opening excitement continues Sunday, June 26, at 4:30 p.m. with a live broadcast recording of National Public Radio’s “From the Top,” with host and pianist Christopher O’Riley. For more than a decade, “From the Top” has been nurturing young musical talent, with each show presenting performances as well as interviews, games and family fun. Tickets are $25, $35 and $40 for this event, which, like “Pinafore” the night before, takes place in Caramoor’s Venetian Theater.

“Deciding on the 35 or 40 concerts Caramoor puts on each summer is a real puzzle, and we generally know about a third to a half about a year in advance,” Mr. Barrett said. “We search for a strong balance, mostly classical music, but there’s also our jazz festival, a day of folk music, African music, Latin music, family programs. We try to get the right kind of balance, not only just within each week. We invite everyone to come to Caramoor this year and know they’ll return often.”


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