Maria Sensi Sellner’s Orchestra and Powerhouse Vocalists Revisit Ensemble’s Initial Production with Magical Results
By George B. Parous
Resonance Works is capping its season finale with a dynamic and brilliant celebratory production of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1847 opera, Macbeth, the first work staged by this equally dynamic and brilliant ensemble, ten years ago. Every element for success was on the program last evening, from Maria Sensi Sellner as the conductor of Robert Frankenberry’s new chamber orchestration of Verdi’s score, to an exceptionally strong cast of vocalists, and it was no surprise that Resonance Works overcame the difficulties of the music and the limitations of the performance venue – the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland – as well as they did. And they did it all, quite exceptionally well.
Nothing Robert Frankenberry is capable of should come as a surprise at this late date, but his reduction of Verdi’s full orchestration was very effective. It was well played last evening under Maria Sensi Sellner’s always calm but commanding demeanor by the chamber-sized ensemble of instrumentalists. This conductor and orchestra might always be counted on for distinctive, eloquent playing of a wide range of musical genres, and last night was no exception. They breezed through the difficult score as if it were just another Thursday night in Oakland. Frankenberry, it would seem, can be counted on for just about anything, for in addition to supplying the orchestration, he sang a role (Malcolm), brilliantly, and added his voice and fine acting skills of repose or action to the ensemble scenes as well. Oh, and he was the associate producer of the opera, too.
Natalie Polito (Lady Macbeth) and Joshua Jeremiah (Macbeth)
Ms. Sellner had, in addition to a seemingly indefatigable group of instrumentalists, some astonishing vocal talent at her disposal as well. Natalie Polito, soprano, is a familiar voice and face to local audiences, mostly to Resonance Works’ audiences, and she has an impressive resume of performances crossing the country as well. She was a commanding figure who dominated the stage in her scenes, pouring her brilliant soprano over the audience prodigally. There were moments when she was a bit too generous with her tones and forced them to a point beyond her having complete control of her voice. But this happened only occasionally, and her interpretation of the role, overall, was quite an excellent one.
The three witches were a serio-comical and tuneful trio – Charlene Canty as the First Witch, Zuly Inirio as the Second and Timothi Williams as the Third. They handed out prophecies in lovely soprano and mezzo-soprano tones and were quite the witchlike sight in their costumes. They, like many in the cast, also did quick costume changes to participate in the various ensembles throughout the opera. One of the loveliest voices heard during the evening was the sweet, piping soprano of Evangeline Sereno, the eight-grader who sang the very brief parts of an Apparition and Fleance.
The Three Witches (L to R), Timothi Williams, Zuly Inirio and Charlene Canty
Others who added their talents to the evening were Faith Snyderman as the Dama/Ensemble; Solomon Onyukwu as Doctor/Ensemble; Paris Holmes as Apparition/Servant/Ensemble; Andrew Bloomgarden as First Assassin/Ensemble and Peter Bianchi as King Duncan of Scotland. Kevin Ray, tenor, lent his ringing, rich and resonant voice the role of Macduff and also joined in the ensembles.
But as much as the performance as a whole might be commended, there’s no denying that Joshua Jeremiah (Macbeth, or, “Macbetto” in the libretto) and Hidenori Inoue (Banco), were the most conspicuous players of the evening, displaying extraordinarily fine baritone (Jeremiah) and bass-baritone (Inoue) voices heard here in quite a while. Both have rich, warm and resonant voices of exceptional beauty and power, perfectly at their command and thrilling to hear. In a cast full of exceptional voices, they rose just a bit higher, just enough to bring the audience to its feet at the conclusion of the opera.
L to R – Kevin Ray (Macduff), Hidenori Inoue (Banco), Joshua Jeremiah (Macbeth)
The audience should have been larger, but it was roused to tremendous enthusiasm for the singers, conductor, instrumentalists and the production team on hand. It was an evening of musical marvels that clearly left a profound impression on those who heard it. The production deserves a full-house when Macbeth is repeated Saturday evening – its only repetition, and one that no Verdi lover should miss.
You can read more about Macbeth, based on the Shakespearean play, for a complete synopsis (if you like spoilers or are unfamiliar with the story), full production details, and order online TICKETS for the Saturday, May 20 repetition, by visiting Resonance Works. That performance will be your last chance to catch this remarkable production!
The Production Team for Macbeth –
Conductor & Producer, Maria Sensi Sellner; Stage Director, Frances Rabalais; Production Manager & Technical Director, Brennan Sellner; Associate Producer, Robert Frankenberry; Lighting Designer, Annmarie Duggan; Costume Designer, Damian Dominguez; Stage Manager, Kate Johnson; Head Electrician, Christina Dragen-Dima; Assistant Stage Managers, Natalie Lawton & Angie Monahan; Rehearsal Pianists, Billie Jo Miller, Hyery Hwang & Lucas Barkley; Scenic Artist, Hannah Kosela; Follow Spotlight Operators, Megan Bresser & Aaron Tarnow; Dresser, Jeremy Pitzer; Electricians, Eve Bandi, Ella Mizera & Lynn Slutsky; Carpenters, Ally Fedor, Simon Hunt & Jacob Jencks
Photography – Alisa Innocenti