Geneva Anderson digs into art

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

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

Opera review: Cinnabar Theatre’s “Don Giovanni,” a new production that is sure to ignite your passions, through April 15, 2012

Baritone Anders Froehlich is the captivating Don Giovanni in Mozart’s enduring classic of the same name which opened at Cinnabar Theatre on March 23, 2012. Photo: Eric Chazankin

When Cinnabar Theatre cast baritone Anders Froehlich for the title role in their new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the classic retelling of the Don Juan legend, they were half way home.  Not only can Froelich sing, but he has the physique of a lean and muscled Romeo.  And, he so convincingly plays the part of Mozart’s suave, seductive, and morally reprehensible aristocrat, that it’s pure pleasure to sit back and experience being seduced by him.  Add to that baritone Eugene Walden’s remarkable performance as Leporello, Giovanni’s faithful but grumbling sidekick, and this production soars.  Truth be told, the entire cast is superb, the music is glorious and the production is so creative that it represents the opera’s tremendous dramatic possibilities as well a small theatre company at it best.

Soprano Kelly Britt, a 2011 graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, makes her Cinnabar Theatre debut as Donna Anna in Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni,” which runs through April 15, 2012. Photo: Eric Chazankin

One of the most amazing aspects of this 225 year-old opera is that it is so filled with fabulous ambiguities, that almost every production emphasizes something different.  Cinnabar’s production, staged by Elly Lichtenstein, gives us a Don Giovanni whose beguiling and complex personality is matched by the equally complex women he encounters.  After the opening night performance, I found myself ruminating on these women—what they represented in their time and what they bring to the table in the here and now.  There’s the unhinged young Donna Anna (soprano Kelly Britt), who has, in the very least, been ravished by Don Giovanni and is mourning the death of her father, who was murdered trying to defend her honor.  Normally, she’s depicted as icy cold and hell-bent on retaliation. Here, we also see her warmth and humanity.  There’s matronly Donna Elvira (mezzo soprano Eileen Morris) who has been jilted by Giovanni and she too seeks revenge and but, beneath the hurt, she still loves him and can’t free herself of her co-dependent obsession.  When she tries to protect young Zerlina from Giovanni’s reckless ways, we see a preservation instinct that we wish she’d exercise on herself.  There’s the young peasant girl Zerlina (soprano Emma McNairy), who loves Masetto but is also taken in by the suave Giovanni’s proclamations and the high life he represents.  She wants both men and, for a moment, deludes herself into thinking that this can work.  And then there is the chorus of women, voluptuous nymphs in all shapes and sizes, writhing in full sensual abandon with each other and with Don Giovanni.  The opera’s rich comic and tragic elements are driven by all these interactions and Lichtenstein has really made Giovanni’s journey—to eternal damnation—one riveting ride.

Don Giovanni (baritone Anders Froehlich, right) attempts to seduce the young peasant girl Zerlina (Soprano Emma McNairy, left) at her own wedding party. Photo: Eric Chazankin

23 year-old soprano Emma McNairy was delightful as Zerlina.   Winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s 2011 Voice Concerto Competition, McNairy’s expressive voice shows incredible range and she has a commanding stage presence. And did she snap into character!  She played Zerlina as sweet and crafty, bringing a refreshing and realistic complexity to the role.  Her pairing with William O’Neill as Masetto, her hunky intended, produced some of the opera’s most fiery moments, another example of the sizzling chemistry that makes this production pop.

Soprano Kelly Britt as Donna Anna was striking—her distinctive voice was smooth, powerful, and evocative.  From the moment she appeared, she displayed a whirlwind of emotional extremes that made the impact of Donna Anna’s rape, or ravishing, by Don Giovanni and the sudden death of her father seem very real.   The twenty-three year-old has that extra something coursing through her that produces a riveting sound, not yet honed to perfection but on its way, and that’s very exciting to experience.

First to appear and last to utter a solo, baritone Eugene Walden was a thoroughly engaging Leporello.   One of the opera’s most humorous moments occurred during his lighthearted “Catalog Aria,” (Madamina, il catalogo è questo) (Act I, Scene v).  As the beleaguered Leporello sings the amazing tally of his boss’s conquests to Donna Elvira, he pulls out a seemingly endless accordion book, chock full of women’s faces and descriptive notes, and flings it towards Donna Elvira.  This gesture so captivates and infuriates her that she engages in a tug of war with him over the book.  This is just one of Elly Lichtenstein’s clever and amusing touches whose effect is priceless.  Another of these magical moments occurs with the famous balcony serenade at the beginning of Act II.  Just behind the singer and through a widow, we see a very seductive striptease occurring between two voluptuous women in silhouette—the scene is gorgeously back lit and has all the resonant flair of a fan dance.  As the women almost get it on, you can feel the heat rising in the audience.  The sensuality is carried through to the famous banquet scene, done wine country style, with Giovanni dining on plump grapes and scantily-clad women.  In the opera’s final chilling scene, the powerfully built John Minágro, who makes a very commanding Commendatore, now turned singing statue, comes to swoop Don Giovanni to his just desserts—hell.  Froelich’s Don Giovanni’s is so intoxicating that, even on his way to hell, he still gets to us.

Cinnabar Theatre’s “Don Giovanni,” has inventive props. Here baritone Eugene Walden, Leporello, sings his famous “catalog aria” to Eileen Morris, Donna Elvira, and flings a seemingly endless accordion-style book that documents his boss’s many romantic conquests. Photo: Eric Chazankin

One of the pleasures of the hearing Mozart’s dramatic music played in the intimate 99 seat setting that Cinnabar offers is that every musician stands out.   Conductor Mary Chun and the orchestra of 10 did a valiant job, offering an elegant and cohesive blending with the voices on stages, but at times the sound seemed understated.  I had never heard the opera sung in English before, which is the only opera experience that Cinnabar Theatre provides, keeping with founder Martin Klebe’s wish to make opera accessible to all audiences.  The main advantage is an immediate understanding of the story, which means it’s very easy to take it all in and you’re not scrambling with translation.  If you know the opera in Italian, its beloved arias such as There, we will entwine  our hands (Là ci darem la mano), (Act I, between Zerlina and Giovanni) are made all the more enjoyable by singing them in Italian in your mind and checking your Italian against the English as you go.

Music by W.A. Mozart, Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, Sung in English (da Ponte’s full translation/libretto translation of Don Giovanni is available free online here.)

Mary Chun artistic director/conductor; Elly Lichtenstein, Stage Director


The Cast, in order of appearance: 

Leporello— servant to Don Giovanni, Eugene Walden

Don Giovanni—Anders Froehlich

Donna Anna—Kelly Britt

The Commendatore, Anna’s father—John Minágro

Don Ottavio, Anna’s fiancé—Mark Kratz

Cinnabar Theatre’s production of “Don Giovanni,” is staged and lit ingeniously. Here baritone Anders Froehlich, as Don Giovanni, sings against a dramatically back-lit window where silhouettes of sensuous delights unfold before the audience. Photo: Eric Chazankin

Donna Elvira—Eileen Morris

Zerlina— Emma McNairy

Masetto, Zerlina’s fiancé— William O’Neill

Sandrina, Leporello’s love—Arden Kwan

Paul Gilger, set design; Wayne Hovey lighting design, Tracy Hinman Sigrist, costume design, Barton Smith, choreography


Underwritten by Frank and Mary Lou Schomer and The A to Z Concert series.

Details:  Cinnabar Theatre is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  Tickets online: $35 General, $32 Seniors 65 & Over, $25 Age 22 & Under.  Tickets also be purchased before the performance but pre-purchase of tickets is  highly recommended as the theatre is small.  Early arrival is also recommended as there is no assigned seating.   For more information, call 707-763-8920 or visit

Run time is 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.

There are 5 remaining performances:  Wednesday April 4, 2012, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2012, at 8 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14, 2012, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 15, 2012, at 2 p.m.

April 3, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment