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Operafest features the Elixir of Love

Friday, June 22, 2018

The fourth annual T&T Operafest, staged by the Picoplat Classical Music Development Foundation, features the romantic opera Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti. The festival runs from June 29 to July 8 at the Little Carib Theatre, Woodbrook, and also features a mini-concert, East Meets West on June 24, and masterclasses between June 26 and 28.

East Meets West features Chinese soprano Mei Zhong and Trinidadian soprano Maegan Pollonais performing Chinese, Korean and Trinidadian songs, accompanied on piano by Hyery Hwang. Zhong and Hwang, faculty members at Ball State University, where Pollonais is one of two Trinidadian doctoral students.

The foundation’s creative director Natalia Dopwell said: “As a part of her doctoral thesis research, Meagan arranged for two faculty members, Hyery Hwang and Mei Zhong, to come to Trinidad and with her, perform Chinese, Korean and Trinidad songs in recital, and give masterclasses to advanced local singers.

“The masterclasses are free to participants and the public and run from June 26-28, from 5 to 8 pm at Napa. Advanced singers from UTT, USC, UWI and the Marionettes and the Lydians have been invited based in teacher recommendations. Anyone may attend to learn with them from the advice of the professors.”

Donizetti’s romantic comedy plays out in 1940’s Trinidad, as Nemorino (Edward Cumberbatch) spends his last 50 cents to buy a magic potion from the snake oil salesman Dulcamara (Krisson Joseph), to win the fickle heart of Adina (Natalia Dopwell) before she marries the dashing army sergeant Belcore (Paul Cort).

Dopwell said the Foundation wanted to produce Donizetti’s opera for some time but the voices needed to fill the roles were not available. “The plot is universally likeable, the characters are so engaging and the melodies are gorgeous,” said Dopwell. “Because it is romantic opera, voices that have matured are necessary, and you need two strong baritones and a wonderful tenor. This year we happened to have the singers we wanted for the principal roles all available to do it.

“We were lucky that tenor Edward Cumberbatch finished his PhD thesis this year, and that baritone Paul Cort, who is a vocal professor at USC said yes. Baritone Krisson Joseph has been singing with us for a few years. Once they said yes, this project was a go. In previous years we brought in foreign professional singers and pianists to bolster the local cast, but we’re very proud that everyone working on the opera this year is locally based, because it shows me that the strength of our organisation is growing.”

The foundation uses several initiatives to expose more people to opera. This year they will again be hosting a free school show on July 3. Dopwell said she thinks it’s important to push the limits of what artistic expressions young people are exposed to. Added Dopwell: “Without ever hearing anything more than the Orange singing the Habanera on Sesame Street, many adults will loudly proclaim that they do not like opera.

“We want individual audience members to open their minds to new musical experiences, to theatre, different cultural expressions and the arts in general—not because I expect them to all go on to become musical professionals, but because I believe they will go onto the rest of their lives with less prejudice towards the unfamiliar.”

Another initiative which will be offered again this year is the Opera Lime option, where patrons who buy four tickets at the box office get a fifth one free. She said this encourages opera lovers to bring their friends to the who might not necessarily head to the theatre to see this type of show.

Dopwell said she hopes audiences will laugh a lot. She added: “They should also leave very impressed with the voices on display, and see just how much more is possible on a local stage.”

Performances of Elixir of Love take place on June 29, and July 1, 6 and 8, at the Little Carib Theatre. There are no Saturday performances as the singers do not use microphones so need to rest their voices.

Tickets cost $200 for both Elixir of Love and East Meets West. Tickets are available at the Little Carib Box Office. For show times and more information, go to and find T&T Opera Festival 2018 on Facebook.


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