This is the niche adopted by Boston Midsummer Opera, and it is proving a welcome approach to, as they state, “ward off the summer doldrums.” BMO is offering Rossini’s “The Italian Girl in Algiers” — L’Italiana in Algeri — on July 27, 29, and 31 at the Tsai Performance Center of Boston University. Conductor of BMO is Susan Davenny Wyner, well known to Boston audiences.
BMInt: Why English?
Davenny-Wyner: “We feel it is important, for accessibility, to do opera in English,” said Davenny Wyner.
Throughout the country, opera is offered as a summer treat at numerous festivals, athough even the closest — Glimmerglass — is a bit of a trek. But opera is rather thin in Boston during the summer. (Some say, throughout the year.)
Fully staged opera is expensive to put on, so one might conclude there is an angel somewhere. “Absolutely not!” stated Ernest V. Klein, executive director of BMO. “We have high-level administrative help that work pro bono, and we are fiscally very responsible. We make out our budgets and we stick to them.
“Operas are simply yet imaginatively staged. Basically what we pay for are the singers, production staff, conductor, and artistic director. We don’t have elaborate productions and costumes. Yet the quality of our productions is first-rate. We do not sacrifice the singing. We can do it because we get such good help.”
Initially trained as a violinist and violist, Davenney Wyner had an international career as a soprano before a bike accident in New York City damaged her vocal chords and she turned to the baton. Although a shame for the operatic roster, the has been successful; The New York Times described her conducting as “richly textured and emotionally compelling,” and The Boston Globe four times selected her performances of concerts and opera as among “Best Musical Events of the Year.”
Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri “is a comic masterpiece, not as well known as Barbiere de Seville but at least as good, if not better,” Davenny-Wyner told BMInt. “Part of the reason it is not performed more often is because some of the parts, foremost the lead Isabella, are extremely hard to sing.”
Davenny Wyner felt the key was finding the right singer for the lead Isabella, and she, along with Klein, believes they have, with Sandra Piques Eddy, “who has sung it all over the place.”
With over 100 Metropolitan Opera performances since her 2001 debut and engagements throughout the United States, mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy was most recently in Boston — her home town — for her role debut as Idamante in Boston Lyric Opera’s Idomeneo. Her professional concert debut was with Boston Baroque in Vivaldi’s Gloria, and she returned for its L’Orfeo, and L’Incoronazione di Poppea.
Winner of the New England Regional 2000 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a national semi-finalist, Eddy graduated from Boston University’s School for the Arts with a master’s degree in Vocal Performance and was an apprentice artist at the Boston Opera Institute.
BMO states that one of its major goals is encouraging new talent, but, truth be told, this year the singers are a mix of those with established reputations and dossiers and those who are up-and-coming. Is there anyone in Boston who does not know of the skill and often comic artistry of David Kravitz? Bass-baritone Eric Downs is rising to the forefront of young professional artists with impressive alacrity. Bradley Williams is one of opera’s most sought after tenors in the bel canto repertoire. The young American soprano Sara Jakubiak made her first Boston appearance as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra under Federico Cortese; she has performed a wide repertoire throughout the US and made her New York City Opera debut in 2010-2011 as Dede in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place.
A striking aspect of BMP is its long-standing collegiality. Klein co-founded BMO with Drew Minter, BMO’s director, and long-time colleague Pauline Ho Bynum in 2006.
By signing up with Davenny Wyner, Boston’s midsummer is the beneficiary.