The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Opera Review
Claudia Legare

Much of what's new about operas written during the last half century or so, entails the use of nineteenth and twentieth century literary greats like Edith Wharton, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller as sources, instead of Shakespeare and other earlier authors. The American novel and play inspired novels are generally written in English which, unlike the romance languages, tends to impose constraints on the vocal flourishes that make for stick-in-your-mind arias common to works by Verdi, Mozart and Rossini. The language and generally less spectacular scale of these operas call for a commitment by opera impresarios to regularly include these works in the annual schedule rather than relying on the "safe" crowd pleasers.

Robert Ward operatized The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1962). In Claudia Legare, a 1970s commission by the New York City Opera, Ward besides making Hedda Gabler by Miller's literary father, Henrik Ibsen, sing, Ward also Americanized it by setting in post Civil War South Caroline. But though Ward and Miller are contemporaries and both Pulitzer Prize winners (Ward for The Crucible and Miller for Death of a Salesman), Miller has enjoyed almost unbroken fame and recognition, while Ward's operas have fallen into obscurity. Several feathers should therefore be added to the DiCapo Opera Theater's already fully-feathered cap for twice giving new life to Ward's operas -- The Crucible in 1995, and now Claudia Legare.

While it has a cast of just seven, Claudia Legere does boast three sopranos and John Farrel's set design evokes a feel of old Southern mansion grandeur. The melodrama of the rebellious, malcontented but tradition-bound General's daughter who married a man she disdains for convenience translates well to the South Carolina setting.

If you don't poke too many holes into George's being a New South planner instead of an academic, his plan for restoring the South to its former glory and Orlando Beaumont's (originally Eilert Lovborg) more industrial-minded counter plan, Librettist Bernard Stambler (who has collaborated with Ward in the past) adapted the characters' personalities and problems with remarkable fidelity to the original. Perhaps a bit too well since a really gripping adaptation, especially when you shift from straight play to through-sung opera needs to translate into a new experience rather than a re-creation. Claudia Legare, despite the changed background, offers little new or exciting in the way of role interpretation.

Of course, this being an opera, the real test here is the music and there's much here to enjoy. The three sopranos have powerful voices -- Susan Foster as the title character, Mechelle Tippets as Aunt Julia and Kathleen Theisen as the Claudia's schoolmate who also loves Orlando but is clearly less afraid to do something about it. However, the two younger women, and especially Ms. Foster, seem to push rather than seamlessly hit the most emotional high notes.

The orchestral passages are quite lovely. The singing seems at its best when most of the ensemble is engaged, though Claudia's dream duet with her dead father (sung off-stage by Robert Pagani), is very appealing. The words which in many English language operas often require super titles, are delivered with admirable clarity.

Of the men Gary Lehman as Orlando Beaumont fares best both in terms of his acting and singing. While I'm a fan of pocket-sized musicals, this most underpopulated of all Dicapo productions I've seen seems to take much of the first act to gain real momentum. John Farrell's handsome set is ably lit by Susan Roth to show the change from day to night to early morning. Angela Huff's costumes, on the other hand, are not only unattractive but unflattering. This last is especially true of Claudia's bright red dress which clashes with the maroon upholstery (perhaps intentionally to underscore, her being so at odds with her situation?).

Speaking of that upholstery, the director obviously has never done much housecleaning or he would not have Jenny, the maid, apply her feather duster intended for use on wood and moldings to the couch and pillows. Another staging quibble, giving both Claudia and Daphne the same loose, teased hair styles rather than the chignons and corkscrew curls typical of the era, underscores a minor but odd lapse from the overall realistic staging.

Di Capo will round out its season with an opera geared to satisfy more traditionally lyrical tastes, Verdi's La Traviata (April 1 to 10th). If Little Women, the new musical that is about to have its official Broadway opening as I write this review, is a success, perhaps next year's contemporary theater related DiCapo opera will be the opera version of Louisa May Alcott's famous novel.

Readers wanting a more detailed synopsis of Claudia Legare will find it at the end of the production notes below. For some of the numerous non-singing adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler that have made their way to New York stages, check out the following links:

Hedda in a radical modern take .
A traditional revival with Kate Burton as Hedda.
Another traditional revival in a site-specific mansion setting .
An all-male camp version .

Claudia Legare
Libretto by Bernard Stambler, based on Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler
Music by Robert Ward
Production Director: Michael Capasso
Cast: Susan Foster (Claudia Legare Lowndes), Eric Van Hoven (George Lowndes), Matthew Lau (Col Blagden), Kathleen Theisen (Daphne Grayson), Gary Lehman (Orlando Beaumont), Mechelle Tippets (Aunt Julia Lowndes), Danielle Freeman (Jenny), Roberg Pagnani (General Legare-- off-stage)
Set Design: John Farrell
Costume Design: Angela Huff
Lighting Design: Susan Roth
Violin I, Marina Kitaychik; Violin II, Catherine Mandelbaum; Viola, William Hakim; Celllo, Leo Grinhauz; Clarinet, Igor Shakhman, French horn, Will de Vos; Piano, Kathryn Olander -- this is a smaller scale alternattive orchestral arrangement by Michael Ching and the composer. (The opera was originally written for 2 flutes (piccolo), 2 oboes (English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, harp, percussion, timpani, piano and strings.

Running time: 2 hours, plus intermission.
Di Capo Opera Theatre, 184 East 76th Street (at Lexington Avenue) (212) 288-9438 --
January 14, 16, 21, 22, 2005 at 8pm; January 23, 2005 at 4pm
Single tickets: $47.50 -- Subscriptions $160
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on January 13, 2005 performance

Claudia Legare Plot Synopsis
George Lowndes and his wife Claudia have returned from a honeymoon which served the dual purpose of furthering George's plans to help rebuild the South (though it turns out that he did manage to impregnate Claudia). His Aunt Julia admires his plans, Claudia, a cauldron of discontent, dreams of the past and of her dead father, General Legare. The arrival of schoolfriend Daphne Grayson searching for Orlando Beaumont who is working on a plan for the new South with Daphne's husband, stirls up memories of Claudio and Orlando's former romance. Orlando too has plans for the new South -- but his are more forward looking than George's. Another family friend and the villain of the piece, Colonel Blagden, arrives advocating Orlando's plan and also shows his sexual interest in Claudia. Orlando also enters the scene and when he and Claudia are left alone, a passionate moment is interrupted by Daphne. When the jealous Claudia proposes a drink and Orlando, a former alcoholic, takes one, it's only a matter of time before he relapses. While drunk, he loses his only copy of the plan. The good-hearted George finds it and entrusts it to Claudia who, in a fit of passion, burns it. When Orlando comes in search of his manuscript, Claudia hands him one of the guns she's inherited from her father and frequently toys with, and urges him to a "glorious" end. He does die, but quite ingloriously, in a brothel brawl. Blagden, who has found Claudia's gun now thinks he can blackmail her into being his mistress. The despairing Claudia shoots herself, leaving Blagden to sing instead of speak his famous last line: "But people don't do things like that."
Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from