Critical Acclaim

Ariadne on Naxos

"It’s hard to convey just how much fun, what an exhilarating theatrical experience is Summerfest’s “Ariadne on Naxos”... Jonathan Eaton’s lively, resourceful staging and Brent McMunn’s expert musical direction ... brings Richard Strauss’s all-too-rarely heard operatic masterpiece vividly to life. Opera Theater’s English-language production is an extraordinary accomplishment....

"Jonathan Eaton discovered two singers for the leads – dramatic soprano Elizabeth Baldwin in the title role, and coloratura Elizabeth Fischborn as the comedienne Zerbinetta – either of whom would be an asset to any opera company in the world. Ms. Baldwin, who won first place in last year’s Mildred Miller competition, has an opulent sound, with solid top notes and a penetrating low, and she sings expressively to boot. She manages Ariadne’s long-breathed phrase about death setting her free, one of the most gorgeous moments in all music, with soaring line and beauty.

 "Ms. Fischborn is that rare phenomenon, a light soprano who combines agility in the altitudes with the fullness and heft of her heavier-voiced colleagues. And what a pro she is on stage: limber and flexible, sexy and funny, clearer in her diction than most singers of her vocal type, with a knack for making the individual viewer feel direct emotional contact.. All the while, she exudes the joy of singing without letting on how hard Zerbinetta’s music really is.

Praising all the Ariadne leads--Elizabeth Baldwin, Robert Frankenberry, Elizabeth Fischborn, and Ericka Hennings, the Pittsburgh Owlscribe blog points out the talent throughout our company:  "As consoling nymphs, Leigh Tomlinson, Amelia Jardon and Bethany Worrell provided some lovely lyrical harmonies and added a good deal visual flourishes with their almost choreographed movement and gestures and demonstrative facial expressions. As harlequins, Errin Brooks, Eric Lindsey and Benjamin Taylor nourished the opera with a hefty soupcon of slapstick, not to mention accomplished singing. Especially impressive was Taylor’s sonorous baritone and magnetic stage presence that should take this young 26-year old from Baltimore on ward to a successful operatic career.

"A word must also be said for the fine work of costume designer, Cynthia Albert, who robed the cast in creative costumes not only in :Ariadne" but even more so in "The Merry Widow," another of OTP’s 2014 SummerFest offerings." 
      —Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The audience...between the excellence of the orchestra, the many phenomenal voices, and the generally good staging, decided simply to give themselves up to the majesty of Strauss’s music, and gave the performance a remarkable ovation."
      Pittsburgh Stage

 

The Fantasticks

"Opera Theater SummerFest's staging in a converted ballroom is larger than the original, but some of the intimacy survives. The secret is director/choreographer Peter Kope, best known as the producing artistic director and co-founder of exploratory dance company Attack Theatre. Though Fantasticks is not a "dance" show, the action flows as the players harmonize physically as well as vocally. (Un-amplified, too.) Under the musical direction of Walter Morales, who also plays piano in the accompanying quartet, SummerFest serves up a more operatic Fantasticks, not just light pop. 
      Michelle Pilecki, Pittsburgh City Paper

"Once a staple of the summer-theater season, “The Fantasticks” is now seldom performed. So, it's nice to see it return as part of Opera Theater's SummerFest with delightfully tuneful performances of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' score by a well-voiced cast and a quartet of musicians...If you've never experienced it, this is a fine opportunity to hear the score solidly performed as it propels the action of the play."
      Alice Carter, PIttsburgh Tribune Review

"Yes, it was fun to engage with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Attack Theater at that wedding cake of a building, The Twentieth Century Club, in Oakland. And engaging it was, with the cast parading, dancing and singing amidst the audience at times... [Peter] Kope kept the cast on a taut physical rope to maximum effect, so the songs were stages so effectively and with great detail. The cast, not all of them dancers, took it all with gusto... This Fantasticks provides a great escape, along with some food for thought."
      —Jane Vranish, CrossCurrents

 

The Merry Widow

"Opera Theater's production was thoroughly engaging. Much of the credit must go to the inventive staging of Mo Zhou, supported by Bernard McDonald's spirited conducting. All the visuals were, in fact, praiseworthy, notably Marie Yokoyama's utilitarian sets and Cindy Albert's colorful costumes. Ms. Singer, whose speaking voice on WQED-FM is as familiar to Pittsburghers as is her accomplished singing, is a magnetic personality who holds focus every moment she's on the stage... It was in her duets with the dashing Danilo of Dimitrie Lazich, however, that Ms. Singer did her best work. Together, these two very likable performers had a palpable chemistry, whether in their manifold protestations of love, or their final romantic declarations in the opera's most familiar melody. For his part, Mr. Lazich used his appealing high baritone (in what was originally a tenor role) with solid technique and sensitivity to the words, his excellent vocalism enhanced by a handsome presence and easy stage demeanor."
      —Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Dimitrie Lazich, as Count Danilo Danilovitch, might just as well have stolen the scenery as he left the theater at the end of the performance... a well-schooled and powerful baritone voice that became mellower and richer as the evening progressed...Anna Singer, as the “Widow,” presented a charming stage picture, acted the part nicely with a fine comedic flair (most notable in the “Can-Can” scene)...her performance was one that satisfied an audience that loudly expressed its appreciation several times...Ultimately, an audience that leaves the theater humming the famous “Waltz” is a happy one, and SummerFest’s “The Merry Widow” obviously made many people very happy indeed."
      Pittsburgh Stage

 

The SummerFest Experience

“Opera Theater's SummerFest is an opera lover's feast this year, not just for seasoned opera goers, but for ‘opera virgins’ – first-timers who are being courted with two-for-one offers and other special deals.”
      —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Top priority credit goes to Artistic and General Director Jonathan Eaton‘s total occupation of the beautiful Twentieth Century Club building in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood…[T]he entire building seemed to be a veritable sponge, soaked-through with opera and cabaret singers dripping from every corner. The total and effective use of the space made it feel as though I had entered into a sort of opera club and the entire place was teeming with upbeat energy, at once unpretentious, inviting and exclusive.”
      —Opera Pulse

 

The Tales of Hoffmann–Retold

“The entire performance tingled with raw energy… admire the level of musical excellence and dramatic commitment”
      —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Soprano Julia Engel wins my five-star praise in her portrayal of the famous clock-work girl portrayed in the first tale, updated and re-imagined as a sort of disaster of genetic engineering and plastic surgery, complete with turban and mirrored sunglasses. Ms. Engel’s instrumental versatility and hilarious characterization won me immediately; her shattering upper-range seemed effortless.”
      —Opera Pulse

“Make a point to catch this production!”
      —Opera Pulse

  

A Little Night Music

“Daphne Alderson in the role of the matriarch Madame Armfeldt…brought a warmth and maturity to this role far beyond her years and made me want to sit at the foot of Mme. Armfeldt’s wheelchair to receive my own pearls of wisdom.”
      —Opera Pulse 

“As pleasing as a summer night's breeze.”
      —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Daniel Teadt sings Egerman with warmth and beauty; Anna Singer displays impressive comedic chops as Desiree; and their on-stage chemistry has you rooting for them from the beginning. These glorious voices singing this mesmerizing music...is a remarkable experience. [Director Scott] Wise has done wonders.”
      —Pittsburgh City Paper

 

Shining Brow

“Opera Theater’s production of Shining Brow is well worth attending and serves as a great example of how music may take on new forms in unique spaces and settings, not unlike the organic nature of Wright’s buildings, by which the work is inspired. This production provides a wonderful way to experience the operatic form, and should be experienced first hand.”
      —Opera Pulse 

“Everyone sits close enough to the performers to see the singers' eyes convey their thoughts and feelings … The result is an almost-entirely intimate opera that conveys the heart of the story.
      —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 

"[Daron Hagen's] new version, cannily staged...is dramatically tight and visually compelling. ” 
      —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

The Secret Gardener/La finta giardiniera

“Aside from Mozart's seemingly infallible music, the evening was fun and entertaining…kept me laughing the whole way through… Countertenor Andrey Nemzer wins my five-star praise as Cavalier Ramiro. ”
      —Opera Pulse 

“Comedy was the cardinal virtue in SummerFest's production, which was directed by Michelle Sutherland …Laughter repeatedly rang out during the performance …The standout vocal performance was by countertenor Andrey Nemzer as Don Ramiro…”
      —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

  

The Magic Flute

“Artistic director Jonathan Eaton’s new staging of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” was a delight to encounter… Juan Jose de Leon sang a wonderful Tamino. The tenor has already shown a big voice and versatility as one of Pittsburgh Opera’s resident artists . . . Sabrina Warren was a superb Pamina, using her ample and open voice with affecting directness . . . Dimitrie Lazich brought wonderfully confident vocalism and deft comic timing to his role as Papageno . . .[As] Queen of the Night, Pamina’s mother Sarah Salas sang the notoriously difficult coloratura brilliantly, and at fast tempi. Beyond the many points of individual excellence, Summerfest’s The Magic Flute was an ensemble effort filled with Mozartean joy. The festival is off to a strong start.”
      —Mark Kanny, Classical Music Critic, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 

“Mr. Lazich was a marvel, the mix of silliness and strong singing that serves the ludicrous Papageno well. Sabrina Warren had a lovely, gentle texture throughout as Pamina. She channeled Lucia with a knife in her hand. The most intriguing casting was standout countertenor Andrey Nemzer as the despicable Monostatos.”
      —Andrew Druckenbrod, Classical Music Critic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

Carmen

“Opera directors usually search for new perspectives when staging yet another performance of old masterpieces. Few are as radical or successful as Jonathan Eaton is in his new version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called Carmen – the Gypsy . . . With every seat in the house within about 20 feet of the edges of the stage in the center, the impact of the drama was visceral in a way it never is in a big opera house . . . worth seeing for Kara Cornell’s portrayal of Carmen alone, but, in truth, the entire cast was outstanding . . . “
      —Mark Kanny, Classical Music Critic, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 

“The 200-seat Kountz Black Box Theater was full for this entertaining, beautifully sung flamenco version of Bizet's Carmen, newly adapted by Robert Frankenberry and OTP head Jonathan Eaton.”
      —Bill O’Driscoll, Arts & Entertainment Editor, Pittsburgh City Paper

 

Candide

"Opera Theater of Pittsburgh gives us all something to cheer and admire . . . You’ll hear and see what justifies the acclaim and reputation accorded this, given uniformly magnificent singing, several wonderful character interpretations, filling out plenty of zippy business directed by consistently locally admired Scott Wise and remarkably adept playing by an orchestra led by Brent McMunn . . . What I’ve seen makes with me fervently hope that Opera Theater’s SummerFest thrives and endures, as a welcome part of our city’s performing arts scene."
      —Gordon Spencer, WCRT-FM 

“Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s SummerFest ended on a high note this Sunday with the festival’s pitch-perfect final showing of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide . . . This Candide’s standout performance is by far that of Pittsburgh native Abigail Dueppen, who dazzles with her performance as the ditzy-happy Cunegonde. Her rendition of ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ quite literally stopped the show on Sunday . . . of particular note. . . Countertenor Andrey Nemzer's daring turn as the Old Lady.”
      —Alexandra Strycula, BroadwayWorld.com

 

Night Caps

“Valkyrie Suite was a Wagner parody recasting the Valkyries as the McDonald Township Women's Bowling Team. . . It was funny — but judging from laughter by some audience members, if you knew Wagner well it was hilarious.”
      —Bill O’Driscoll, Arts & Entertainment Editor, Pittsburgh City Paper 

“I saw Bridal Suite featuring Dwayne Fulton’s gospel-like and opera-sounding music, all sung with style and verve. Denise Sheffey-Powell made the most and best of the bride’s every note.”
      —Gordon Spencer, WCRT-FM

 

The Ring

“The best operatic staging seen in Pittsburgh in a long time… the weekend’s production of The Ring is a triumph for Opera Theater … a company that has introduced a supreme masterpiece to our community.”
      —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Pittsburgh now has two opera companies, and the second more than doubles the musical riches of our fair city.”
      —WQED-FM Sunday Arts Magazine

 

Lost in the Stars

Lost in the Stars is one of my top ten experiences out of 60-plus years of going to the theatre… Shows of this crowning achievement rarely happen on Broadway any more… a masterpiece of musical theater… an eloquent pinnacle of the combination of a superior score and a deeply sensitive book in the hands of exceptional theatre craftsmen…”
      —Edgar Loessin, Loessin at Large, NPR

 

Porgy and Bess

“The cast, conductor and orchestra were excellent…one of [Opera Theater]’s greatest successes.”
      —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 

Summer and Smoke

“Eaton’s precision and purpose is clear throughout… If there was a second when [it] was anything less than great, then I missed it.”
      —Pittsburgh City Paper

 

Euridice and Orpheus

“With gravestones, mausoleums and monuments stretching out in all directions, a single clarinetist strolled, playing a mournful melody… and with that, a most remarkable operatic event began in a most unusual setting: Allegheny Cemetery… What could have been gimmicky in the hands of lesser artists was an experience that many will remember.”
      —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

The Marriage of Figaro

“Opera Theater lovingly stages charming Figaro… smartly conceived and energetically performed… consistently fine acting was another dimension of Eaton’s directorial mastery… a rewarding production that raced to the final curtain.”
     —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 

Die Fledermaus

“Wonderfully presented on stage by Opera Theater… the kind of laughter that erupted time and again… was the ultimate tribute to a brilliant production of an operetta with a New Year’s Eve party at its core… The range and frequency of the jokes were as pleasantly dizzying as champagne.”
     —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 

A View from the Bridge

“Wonderfully eclectic … superbly cast … Eaton’s direction was fluid and smart.”
     —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 

The Soldier's Tale

“A noble experiment … scintillating … skillfully balanced text and music … undeniable star power.”
     —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

L’Incantesimo

“The adventurous Opera Theater of Pittsburgh gave L’Incantesimo its American stage premiere in the exquisite Sculpture Hall of the Carnegie Museum of Art. It was a thoroughly delightful experience, staged in the round by the ever inventive Jonathan Eaton… “
     —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette