Opera Omaha's Semele production opened last night to a full house and an enthusiastic reception from the amazing audience that this company and city have managed to assemble for something that would not normally be regarded as mainstream operatic repertoire - certainly outside the world's major metropolitan areas. So here is evidence of extremely successful audience cultivation and development.
Of course it helps to have an absolute gem of a theatre which is a pleasure to visit by any standards. (Click picture to enlarge). This is the Creighton Orpheum, maintained in beautiful condition and with generous public spaces and a fine acoustic. Whilst in an ideal world it is on the large side, especially for repertoire of this kind, it is an enormously attractive auditorium on which much love and care has been lavished, as well as cash from this extraordinary community in Omaha.
The enthusiastic reception for Semele was earned and thoroughly deserved. James Darrah has had another success with this production which will enhance his reputation further, and it will be seen in due course in Philadelphia, reworked no doubt for the much smaller Perelman Theatre where Opera Philadelphia perform the smaller scale titles in their repertory. And the music was presided over by Stephen Stubbs, an experienced and authoritative presence in this repertoire - as he had been in the excellent Opera Omaha Agrippina in 2014.
Roger Weitz, Opera Omaha's young General Director, has with his team assembled an excellent cast with Mary Feminear in the title role (seen above with the Opera Omaha's splendid chorus), a standout singer and performer, delivering the no less than nine varied and difficult arias with aplomb and some remarkable vocal fireworks.
She was matched by Peabody Southwell's Juno - and she also took on Ino, singing the role from the pit with a dancer playing the character - a bit of directorial license which may work better in a smaller space then the Orpheum. Peabody is an exceptional singer and actress not afraid to break any conventional rule the might get in the way of her artistic goals - this marks her out as someone to watch for she takes no prisoners, and this pays off such is her ability and thoughtfulness artistically.
A debutante Iris, Liz Lang, is quite a find - to be watched, a very good voice. There were polished and elegant contributions from William Ferguson (Jupiter), Aubrey Allicock (Cadmus/Somnus) and Ray Chenez (Athamas). To have assembled such a cast is an achievement. But they specialise in that - the Cosi fan tutte next season will have Amanda Majeski singing her first Fiordiligi, and Emily Fons as Dorabella. That will be worth the trip!
And this a worth the trip as well - I return to Chicago this afternoon, and will be back in London on Wednesday evening. Meanwhile there are some nice activities coming up!