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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: Cinnabar Theater rings in 2015 with the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies”—through January 18, 2015

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, (L to R) Melissa Weaver, Valentina Osinski, and Michael Van Why star in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.”  The reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s personality are sung by four different performers. Constantly beside Piaf is her half-sister and life-ling partner, Simone Bertraut (Missy Weaver).  The audience experiences Piaf’s songs in new English translations and in their original French as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies. Nostalgic, gorgeously lit, black and white photo projections of Piaf and Paris serve as a backdrop to the action on stage. Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, (L to R) Melissa Weaver, Valentina Osinski, and Michael Van Why star in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” The reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s personality are sung by four different performers. Constantly beside Piaf is her half-sister and life-ling partner, Simone Bertraut (Missy Weaver). The audience experiences Piaf’s songs in new English translations and in their original French as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies. Nostalgic, gorgeously lit, black and white photo projections of Piaf and Paris serve as a backdrop to the action on stage. Photo by Eric Chazankin

The music, singing and scenes from Cinnabar Theater’s brassy new commission, “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies,” are so ingenious that it’s easy to imagine them invigorating Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris (2011) or Olivier Dahan’s “La Vie en Rose” (2007) or even the outrageously countercultural “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975).  Conceived and written by Valentina Osinski and Michael Van Why, this new musical had its world premiere on Saturday and is a gem will linger in your memory long after the last chanteuse sings.

“Beneath Paris Skies” brings together five wonderful performers and a talented five-piece band to take you on an enthralling trip to mid-century France through the eyes of Édith Piaf and her half-sister and life-long partner, Simone “Mômone” Berteaut.  No joy ride, this is a fractured fairy tale that delves into the tempestuous “Little Sparrow’s” epically messy life.  It  presents her famed song repertoire with new lyric  translations in English by Lauren Lundgren and in the original French.  Fractured is a key theme of the production as the reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s complex personality are sung by four different performers.   Mezzo soprano Valentina Osinski, soprano Julia Hathaway, tenor Michael Van Why, and tenor Kevin Singer appear throughout the performance, each mining their juicy bits of Piaf for all they’re worth.  Aside from playing parts of Piaf, the performers take on other roles too, such as those of Piaf’s many lovers.  Suffice it to say, there’s a bed on stage and it’s frequently got more than two people in it.  It’s complicated and quickly-paced but a lifetime has cleverly been packed into two hours… and it works.   We’re given resonating personality slices and a chance to experience Piaf’s songs in dramatically different voices as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies.

The chemistry between the singers is the glue that binds it all together.  As the small ensemble shifts through various roles and costume changes–Pat Fitzgerald has dressed the singers in Piaf’s signature black–sparks fly and we can feel their pain, their joy and the palpable crush of the green monster, jealousy.  It is pure pleasure to behold soprano Valentina Osinski in action.  She sings with a smoldering intensity and her Piaf is tantalizing, pitiful, despicable and enviable.  Osinski was honored last year with a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award.  It’s a real treat to see her in Cinnabar’s intimate space, where you can almost feel the rustle of her movements.  As Simone Berteaut, lovely Melissa Weaver delivers an equally beguiling performance.  We see a master of facial expression at work as she anguishes over loosing years basking in the shadow of her famous but dysfunctional half-sister.

 

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, soprano Julia Hathaway (foreground) is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.”  In the second part of the musical, Hathaway sings Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” whose lyrics, newly translated for Cinnabar by Lauren Lundgren, tell of love blissfully reclaimed. Hathaway  appeared in  “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and sang Frasquita in “Carmen” (2014) and Musetta in “La Bohème” (2009)).  In the background is Melisa Weaver who plays Simone Bertaut, Piaf’s half-sister, and is also the stage director for the musical.  Weaver is the artistic director of First Look Sonoma and has had a hand in the production of several original operas.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, soprano Julia Hathaway (foreground) is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” In the second part of the musical, Hathaway sings Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” whose lyrics, newly translated for Cinnabar by Lauren Lundgren, tell of love blissfully reclaimed. Hathaway appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and sang Frasquita in “Carmen” (2014) and Musetta in “La Bohème” (2009). In the background is Melisa Weaver who plays Simone Bertaut, Piaf’s half-sister, and is also the stage director for the musical. Weaver is the artistic director of First Look Sonoma and has had a hand in the production of several original operas. Photo by Eric Chazankin

These are the same artists and creative team who crafted and appeared in Cinnabar’s sensational tribute Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” that rang in 2014.  As far as winning creative partnerships go, Cinnabar has a great thing going by drawing on local talents who are also multitalented—conception and stage adaptation was done by Valentina Osinski (also sings Edith Piaf), Michael Van Why (also sings Piaf and various lovers) and Lauren Lundgren (also did lyric translations), with stage direction by Melissa Weaver (also plays Piaf’s half-sister) and music direction by Al Haas (also plays guitar) and Robert Lunceford (also plays accordion).  Other musicians include Daniel Gianola-Norris (horn),  Jan Martinelli (bass), and John Shebalin (drums).

Adding to the splendor are nostalgic black and white photo projections of Piaf and period Paris, designed by Wayne Hovey, that serve as a backdrop to the action on stage.  And the intimate 99 seat theater itself has been transformed into a cozy French cabaret with small tables set-up between most of the seats so that you can get to know each other and properly enjoy your drinks along with the show.

Lauren Lundgren on translating Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” into singable English for Cinnabar: 

Throughout her life, Édith professed absolute faith in love.  She thought of it as a remedy for pretty much everything, even though, or maybe because, it’s so easy to lose, so often painful, and so damnably hard to find.  When “La Vie en Rose” came out, she was thirty and had had countless one-night stands, a fair amount of affairs, but had not yet met the love of her life.  Was she wistful, ardent, anxious, ecstatic, naïve, or cynically commercial?  With the help of outside research, I decided that she was all about fairy tale love, pure romance, without any dishes to wash or beds to make, with a definite patina of lust.  Her songs are drenched in longing, and they are also dipped in a bit shit, pardon my French.  That is what guided the translation.

“It became a quandary…how much to sanitize her vs. how much to reveal her.  …There are times when it’s a sin to deviate one iota from the meaning of a phrase and other times when its a sin not to.  And now I find myself having to inoculate you against the French that demanded a translation you’ have to pardon.  Who knows.  You may welcome a smattering of course language. … After an enormous struggle with the problem, I concluded that one can’t second guess an audience and I might as well come as close to the original as possible. (Extracted from Lundgren’s remarks entitled “Pardon My French” at Cinnabar’s Cinelounge on Saturday, January 4, 2015)

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, tenor Kevin Singer is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” Singer co-stars with three others as the legendary Edith Paif.  He also appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and in “Of Mice and Men” (2014).  Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, tenor Kevin Singer is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” Singer co-stars with three others as the legendary Édith Paif. He also appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and in “Of Mice and Men” (2014). Photo by Eric Chazankin

Details: There are 7 remaining performances of “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies” but several of these are sold out.  Limited tickets are still available for Friday, Jan 16 (8 PM); Sat, Jan 17 (2 PM and 8 PM) and Sunday, Jan 18 (2 PM).  Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  Buy tickets online here.  For more information, visit cinnabartheater.org.

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January 6, 2015 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnabar Theater wraps in 40th season with a ravishing “Carmen” and the acclaimed Alphabet Players concert, “Stories of the 20th Century,” on Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cinnabar Theater has added a performance on June 12, 2013 to its sold out run of "Carmen," the classic opera by Georges Bizet. The production features Mark Kratz as Don José and Rebecca Krouner as Carmen. Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater has added a performance on June 12, 2013 to its sold out run of “Carmen,” the classic opera by Georges Bizet. The production features Mark Kratz as Don José and Rebecca Krouner as Carmen. Photo by Eric Chazankin

There’s really nothing that Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater can’t do— it has wrapped its 40th season with a sensational, fiery “Carmen,” Bizet’s beloved story of seduction and jealous rage set in Seville.  At last night’s opening, mezzo-soprano, Rebecca Krouner—raven-haired, statuesque, impetuous and channeling the devil—seemed to embody Carmen.   Her voice seemed to get richer as the evening progressed and her on-stage chemistry with her leading men—Mark Kratz as soldier, Don José, and Jason Detwiller as the dashing toreador, Escamillo—was palpable.  All Cinnabar’s operas are performed in English.  How wonderful to hear Carmen’s catchy and melodic arias sung in English with the lush accompaniment of Cinnabar’s highly-talented 11 member orchestra conducted by Mary Chun.  “The Flower Song” (“La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée”)(Act I), “Habanera” (“Love is a rebellious bird” or “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”)(Act I) and the “Toreador song” (Act II)—all came to life as the glowing voices of the woodwinds, strings and brass melded with the voices.  If you’ve seen Carmen in a big house, Cinnabar’s intimate space transforms the experience into something very private and accessible with a completely different feel.  Carmen is all about seduction–through music, voice, and dance and bodies exuding and responding to passion.  The vivacious singers are so close that you almost feel every embrace, slap and wayward glance.

Sensual moment—Krouner in a smoking haute red silk halter dress…all curves brilliantly accounted for. This bias-cut dress had a detachable brocade cape that was joined to the dress at the bosom with several fabric strips that fanned out across her décolletage and shoulders.  After running his hands passionately over her body, Don José (Mark Kratz) was well occupied as he both sang his aria and removed this cape, button by button and strap by strap, to get to the goods.  Whoa!!!!  Costume designer Lisa Eldredge out did herself.

Stand-out performance—soprano Julia Hathaway, as Frasquita, a smuggler and Carmen’s sidekick…the twinkle in her eye, her commanding presence, her distinctive voice …she’s got natural heat and a capricious air that really bolstered the production.

If you want to see this opera, jump NOW because the entire run is sold-out except for a new performance has just been added on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets here20th_century

Up this Sunday, June 2, at 2 p.m. at Cinnabar Theater, the acclaimed Alphabet Players perform “Stories of the 20th Century,” the final concert of their “Through the Centuries” series.   The performance will celebrate the 20th Century with a delightful diversity of poetry and story set to music.

The Program:

William Walton’s Façade
Featuring the poems of Edith Sitwell
Michael van Why and Elly Lichenstein, Guest Artists

Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire
based on the poems by Albert Giraud
Karen Clark, Guest Artist

Paul Hindemith’s Frog Went a Courting
And more

The Alphabet Players
Leslie Chin, flute
Roy Zajac, clarinet
Terrie Baune, violin
Karen Rosenak, piano
Daniel Gianola-Norris, trumpet
Steve Parker, alto sax
Kevin Neuhoff, percussion
Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis, cellos

 

Elly Lichenstein, Artistic Director, Cinnabar Theater, introduces Terence Keane, Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, to the audience at the May 31, 2013 opening of “Carmen,” Cinnabar’s last production in its celebratory 40th season.  

Details: Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  “Carmen” is sold-out, except for the newly added June 12, 7:30 p.m. performance.  ($35 General, $32 Seniors 65 & Over, $25 under age 22)

“Stories of the 20th Century” is June 2, 2013 at 2 p.m. Buy tickets online here ($20 General, Seniors; $15 Under Age 22)

Early arrival is recommended as there is no assigned seating. For more information, call 707-763-8920 or visit http://www.cinnabartheater.org

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment