Palm Beach Opera “Did Itself Proud” with Its Inaugural World Premiere, Ben Moore’s Enemies, A Love Story

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Palm Beach Opera “Did Itself Proud” with Its Inaugural World Premiere, Ben Moore’s Enemies, A Love Story

 

Already one of American opera’s most inspirational recent success stories, Palm Beach Opera made national and local headlines again with last month’s premiere presentation of Enemies, A Love Story. The stakes were high; hailed as “one of the most eagerly anticipated premieres of the season” (WQXR), the new production not only marked the operatic debut of composer Ben Moore, but also the first world premiere in the company’s 54-year history. Nevertheless, Palm Beach Opera proved more than equal to the occasion, prompting Musical America to conclude, “The company, under Artistic Director Daniel Biaggi, did itself proud with this ambitious, $1.2 million staging.

 

Set to a libretto by Nahma Sandrow, Enemies, A Love Story is based on the novel by Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer and its subsequent Academy Award-nominated film adaptation. It tells the story of Herman Broder, a philosophical Jewish intellectual and Holocaust survivor living in post-war New York, and is at once the comedy of a man juggling two wives and a mistress, and a dark reflection on the legacy of the Holocaust. In Palm Beach Opera’s capable hands, the music, libretto, performances, and premiere production all inspired heartfelt accolades.

 

What the critics are saying…

 

… about Palm Beach Opera’s achievement

 

Enemies is the first world premiere in Palm Beach Opera’s 54-year history, and the company, under Artistic Director Daniel Biaggi, did itself proud with this ambitious, $1.2 million staging.”

Musical America

 

“Palm Beach Opera deserves great credit for presenting a new American work and staging it with such theatrical and musical integrity. The company should continue to explore this repertoire.”

South Florida Classical Review

 

Enemies is a compelling theatrical experience that entertains, while stirring after-the-show discussion of the multilayered storyline.”

Palm Beach Daily News

 

Enemies, A Love Story … is worthy of being staged again here and by other companies.”

Classical Source

 

… about composer Ben Moore

 

“An engaging opera, the first by Ben Moore … Moore’s music is arresting too, proudly accessible to the point of including Broadway-type songs.”

Financial Times

 

“His penchant for melody serves him well … in making palatable the often painful material of Enemies.”

Musical America

 

“Mr. Moore’s music is unabashedly tonal and accessible. Hints of operetta, American musicals and a little Leonard Bernstein coexist with soaring Puccinian lines, folk tunes and klezmer melodies. He writes idiomatically and lyrically for voice, and each of the women is acutely characterized.”

– Wall Street Journal

 

… about librettist Nahma Sandrow

 

“With a taut libretto by Nahma Sandrow, the opera maintains the film’s arresting combination of breeziness on the surface and darkness underneath while giving its characters new life.”

Financial Times

 

“A deft libretto by Nahma Sandrow.”

Wall Street Journal

 

“Singer originally published Enemies, A Love Story in Yiddish as a serial in the Jewish Daily Forward in 1966 (the novel came out in English six years later), and first-time librettist Sandrow is attuned to the tradition from which it came, as author of Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater.”

– Musical America

 

… about bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch

 

“In the role of the conflicted Broder, Daniel Okulitch dominates the stage with a larger-than-life portrayal. With his deep bass baritone and movie star charisma, he brings sympathy to a man who lives a ghostlike existence, destructive to himself and those around him. His mellow timbre blended warmly in duets with the three heroines.”

South Florida Classical Review

 

“As the omnipresent Herman, Daniel Okulitch provides a spot-on combination of Woody Allen self-deprecation and James Stewart swagger. His rich baritone sound scales the high-lying climaxes while giving depth to the more contemplative lines, and a variety of color.”

– Palm Beach Daily News

 

… about singers Caitlin Lynch, Danielle Pastin, and Leann Sandel-Pantaleo

 

“The three women receive stellar performances from Caitlin Lynch (Yadwiga), Danielle Pastin (Masha) and Leann Sandel-Pantaleo (Tamara).”

Financial Times

 

“Each of the women is…impeccably performed.”

Wall Street Journal

 

“Sandel-Pantaleo’s performance as Tamara was a tour de force, in a role that mixes comic bickering and poignant lyricism.”

Musical America

 

… about conductor David Stern and the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra and Chorus

 

“David Stern … did a great job of bringing out nuances in the score, such as the turbulent music beneath Herman and Tamara’s reunion, or cello solos in homage to Bruch’s Kol Nidre. He deployed deft restraint in flashy passages, like the wails of klezmer clarinet.”

Musical America

 

“The skillful orchestration features an instrument for each wife and a pounding piano line; David Stern was the able conductor.”

Wall Street Journal

 

“David Stern drew gorgeous playing from the orchestra.”

South Florida Classical Review

 

“Musical values are exemplary, starting with virtuoso orchestral playing under conductor David Stern.”

Palm Beach Daily News

 

“David Stern led the excellent Palm Beach Opera Orchestra in a fine traversal of Moore’s beautiful score, with clarinet riffs in the klezmer-influenced passages and lovely cello solos accompanying Herman’s final soliloquy being particularly memorable. The Palm Beach Opera Chorus also excelled as it sang of ‘Miracles of life’.”

Classical Source

 

… and about the production

 

“Sam Helfrich’s smart production, with sets by Allen Moyer in which vintage subway images cleverly designate locales, moves the action along swiftly.”

Financial Times

 

“Allen Moyers’s ingenious scenery comprises, on the lower level of the stage, boxed sets denoting apartments in Coney Island (for Yadwiga), the Bronx (Masha) and Manhattan’s lower east side (Tamara), which glide slickly from one to the other. There also is the all-important telephone booth, from which Herman can propagate his web of lies. Above this are splendid projections by Greg Emetaz – ads and posters authentic to the 1949 setting, clarifying where the characters are at any given moment. In the same vein are Kaye Voyce’s eye-catching period costumes.”

Palm Beach Daily News

 

“Sam Helfrich’s production was a winning mix of intimate confrontations, crowded New York venues and multimedia spectacle, aided by Allen Moyer’s picturesque abstract sets and Greg Emetaz’s projections of buildings, newspapers and billboards of the era.”

South Florida Classical Review

 

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Palm Beach Opera is dedicated to producing live opera at an international standard of excellence and to enriching the life of the communities it serves with a diverse offering of educational programs. Founded in 1961, the fully professional Palm Beach Opera presents main stage performances at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach and is a proud member of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.

 

 

pbopera.org

 

www.facebook.com/palmbeachopera

 

twitter.com/palmbeachopera

 

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© 21C Media Group, March 2015

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