Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: LA CORONA AND IL PARNASO CONFUSO at Methodist Church In Camarillo

Drive-In Opera for Pandemic Time

Review: LA CORONA AND IL PARNASO CONFUSO at Methodist Church In Camarillo

On Saturday evening November 21, 2020, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented two rare, one-act operas by Christof Willibald Gluck, La Corona and Il Parnaso Confuso to a drive-in audience of 90 cars in the parking lot of the United Methodist Church on Anacapa Drive in Camarillo, CA. Normally, POP presents opera in Los Angeles, but live, drive-in performances are not currently permitted there.

Executive and Artistic Director Josh Shaw's discovery of an opera called La Corona in this time of pandemic led him to another of Gluck's one act comedies, Il Parnaso Confuso. Both were written for royal celebrations and were to be sung by the same four children of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa. Unfortunately, La Corona was never performed during Gluck's lifetime. In 1987, it received its world premiere at the London Festival observance of the bicentenary of Gluck's death.

Il Parnaso Confuso was composed in 1765 for the four princesses to sing at Habsburg Archduke Joseph's wedding. In its libretto, Apollo asks three ill-prepared muses, Euterpe (Music), Erato (Lyric Poetry), and Melpomene (Tragedy), to perform on short notice at the Emperor's wedding. In Josh Shaw's reimagined production, the muses are a 1980s band and Apollo, no longer a god atop Mount Parnassus, is a wedding planner

Government rules had to be followed in order to have a live performance in this era of pandemic. For the duration of rehearsal and performance time, artists had to agree to the following: to travel only between rehearsal and home, to avoid all contacts with people outside of their households, and to contact POP immediately if they experienced any symptoms related to COVID, or had contact with a COVID-positive person.

Utilizing a three level stage, designer Josh Shaw and costumer Maggie Green set La Corona in ancient Greece. Artists wore loose flowing garments. The second opera, Il Parnaso Confuso, however, was updated to the 1980s and the singers wore bright colored rock-and-roll outfits that denoted their status as band members. Stage decor included two electric guitars and a golden saxophone. I particularly loved the short skirt with leg warmers and wondered who had kept the outfit this long.

The double bill featured sopranos Jessica Sandidge, Tiffany Ho, and Audrey Yoder, as well as mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin in both operas.

Composed for performance in 18th century, these operatic compositions are in the style of Handel and Vivaldi rather than Verdi and Puccini. The arias are da capo with constantly repeated phrases but the music is perfectly marvelous. It's melodic, complex, and it demands the utmost technical proficiency from singers and instrumentalists.

Mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin as Asteria in La Corona and Erato in Parnaso was the most outstanding singer of the evening. Her coloratura was usually precise and her characterizations were as close to natural as possible in this era of social distancing. As Atalanta and later as Apollo, soprano Jessica Sandige offered silvery high notes, decorated runs, and a dramatic middle range that made her characters come to life.

Agile-voiced Tiffany Ho was a versatile musician who sang the masculine role, Meleagro, in the first opera and the muse, Melpomene, in the second with great energy and clear diction. Audrey Yoder was a dramatically engaging singing actress who showed great vocal flexibility while singing Climene in Corona and Euterpe in Parnaso.

Conductor Kyle Naig played the recitatives and led the small, distanced, shielded orchestra from the keyboard. He drew a thoughtful rendition of the score from his orchestra. The ensemble had a bright sound and showed a good understanding of eighteenth century operatic textures and phrasing. Carson Gilmore directed Corona, while Josh Shaw directed and designed Parnaso. Both operas were sung in Italian with Shaw's projected English supertitles in the style of each production. The composite sound of this performance as heard on FM radio was top notch.

I hope more companies will think of using drive-in mode. Older people make up a considerable percentage of the opera going public. Currently, they should not sit in a close communal setting. Watching a live performance from their own cars and listening on the FM radio with the windows shut provides optimum safety. With almost no possibility of contagion from a crowd, patrons can enjoy an evening out at the opera.

Pacific Opera Project's drive-in performances of Puccini's La Bohème can be seen on December 10, 12, and 13 at the United Methodist Church parking lot on Anacapa Drive in Camarillo, CA. https://www.pacificoperaproject.com/

Photo of Jessica Sandidge by Martha Benedict for Pacific Opera Project.



Casa Romantica Announces 2023 Spring and Summer Season of Programming Photo
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, Orange County's major cultural institution and arts destination, has announced its programming for the 2023 Spring and Summer seasons.

Photos: First Look at Redondo Ballets SNOW QUEEN Photo
Redondo Ballet's production of SNOW QUEEN, directed and choreographed by Donna Perkins and Francesca Stern, is based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale, but puts an incredibly unique and exciting spin on the story, taking Rudie (whose best friend has been taken by the evil Snow Queen), on an adventurous odyssey.  Check out photos here!

Whitefire Theatre Announces Lian Ben Porats One Woman Show SECOND NATURE Photo
Actress, playwright, dancer and singer, Lian Ben Porat has announced with Director Kimleigh Smith that the one night only VIP performance of Porat's International one-woman show, SECOND NATURE will be featured at The Whitefire Theatre's Solo Fest.

The Aris Quartett to Perform at The Art of Living Foundation in February Photo
The Da Camera Society will present Aris Quartett on Saturday, February 18 at 3pm, at The Art of Living Foundation.


From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)


BWW Review: AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON WITH RAEHANN BRYCE-DAVIS at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON WITH RAEHANN BRYCE-DAVIS at Home Computer Screens
November 9, 2021

Bryce Davis and Cilliers opened their recital program with Richard Strauss' and John Henry Mackay's uplifting 'Heimliche Aufforderung' ('The Secret Invitation'). This joyous, celebratory composition was the composer's gift to his bride on their wedding day. Bryce-Davis sang it with exquisite vocal colors. Next was Robert Schumann 'Die Lotosblume' ('The Lotus Flower') in which the poet Heinrich Heine described the beauty of the love between the flower and the moon. Bryce-Davis showed the lyric tones of her voice as she told of this delicate love.

ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer ScreensONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer Screens
November 4, 2021

This evening our online show is Los Angeles Opera’s La Traviata from 2006 with: Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Renato Bruson, Suzanna Guzmán, Anna Akhimova, Daniel Montenegro, Philip Kraus, James Creswell, Sal Malaki, and Mark Kelley. James Conlon conducts the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. The stage director is Marta Domingo. Brian Large directs it for TV.

BWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens
October 31, 2021

The Copper Queen is a modern opera by Clint Borzoni and John de los Santos that tells of times past in Bisbee, Arizona. It won an Arizona Opera competition that insured its place onstage. Because of the pandemic and the fact that currently audience size is quite limited, The Copper Queen became a film that can be experienced online. 

BWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens
October 25, 2021

On October  24, 2021, Los Angeles Opera presented Wagner’s Tannhäuser live online for patrons who cannot get to the theater at this time. Director Louise Muller revived the Ian Judge production of the opera’s Dresden version. A second live streamed performance will be available from LA Opera on October 27. 

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens
October 24, 2021

On October 22, 2021, Opera Philadelphia began streaming its rendition of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This staging is a judiciously cut two-hour-and-forty-eight-minute production by Opera Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. Each company is choosing its own conductor and cast.