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by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin-H&G-1Jonathon Field never fails to bring new insights into his opera productions, and Oberlin Opera Theater’s fall show, Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel is full of details that add to the delicious ambiguity of what many of us think of as a children’s opera. After all, it’s a fairy tale decked out with a wicked witch, a gingerbread house and guardian angels. But scratch the surface of this musical rendering of a Brothers Grimm story and disturbing topics come to light.

When we first meet Hansel (Marisa Novak) and Gretel (Alexis Aimé), they seem like normal adolescent siblings who are locked in a continuous squabble — until you notice that there’re a lot of physical blows being exchanged. That’s a stock element in all kinds of comedy from Punch and Judy shows to animated cartoons, but as the scene goes on and mother (Kayleigh Decker) and father (Daveed Buzaglo) come home, the level of physical violence begins to add up to a diagnosis: this is a dysfunctional family who are plagued by hunger, overshadowed by drunkenness and who take out their frustrations on each other with fists and brooms (their cottage industry has stockpiled plenty of weapons close at hand).

You can set that level of analysis aside if you like, but it keeps coming back. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hathaway

Fledermaus-1It was clear from the first notes of the overture on Wednesday evening in Hall Auditorium that Oberlin Opera Theater’s Die Fledermaus was going to be a musically distinguished production. Guest conductor Raphael Jiménez and the Oberlin Orchestra (which he regularly conducts in concerts) took brisk tempos and played all the tunes that would come around later with verve and precision, including some wicked violin licks. Jiménez, who has plenty of experience in the opera pit, led a tight performance of the entire operetta, closely partnering singers and infusing the orchestra playing with enough Viennese rhythmic nuance to sound authentic.

The opening night cast for Johann Strauss II’s dizzy tale of a Viennese practical joke that gets repaid with interest was strong, confident and wonderfully comedic. Read the rest of this entry »

by Michael Cirigliano II

Special to

CappingOberlinOrchestraCarnegieHall off a week of performances that brought their jazz, new music, and Baroque ensembles to four of New York City’s prized venues, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music imported its prestigious orchestra to Carnegie Hall for a varied program that included contributions from two of the school’s most famous alumni, pianist Jeremy Denk and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Christopher Rouse.

Conductor Raphael Jiménez was wise to showcase the divergent talents of his ensemble on the program’s first half, programming both the high camp of Ravel’s La Valse and the Viennese delicacy of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. After a tentative and shadowy opening in the Ravel, the orchestra’s rich colors slowly began to emerge, led by a glossy violin section that displayed impeccable intonation that endured even as the composer continued to process his stately waltz through the fractured machine of a postwar Cubist landscape.  Read the rest of this entry »

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