June 13, 2013

Æsopera - Hollywood Fringe Reviews

AMANDA MADDOX says "loved it" - June 13, 2013
Aesopera is everything I want in a theater-going experience. Throughout these five mini-operas you will find yourself laughing at its zany yet clever humor, tearing up in its moments of heartbreaking tenderness, and, most importantly, getting blown away by the beautiful voices of its extremely talented cast. Overall the cast is very young; and I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to see men and women of that age so passionately and so skillfully singing opera. They were of course lead by the more veteran player, Jeffrey Stackhouse, who I'm certain gave them the inspiration and the confidence they needed to pull off such challenging material.

Overall I very much enjoyed Aesopera and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and fresh theatrical experience!

EDDIE VONA says "loved it" - June 11, 2013
I thought this show was fun! I hadn't seen an opera written after 1900 and thought that the ship had sailed on anything good coming out of the genre. But Aesopera proved me wrong. The five mini-operas were in turn touching and hilarious. And it was only an hour long. Totally worth it! Go see it!

PETE RENFROE says "loved it" - June 12, 2013
I saw AESOPERA this last Sunday June 9th and really love it! I have been to musical events at the Fringe before, but none had this type of musical and performance complexity! There is so much BEAUTY to this show! The mini operas pack a punch of Tragedy, Comedy, Irony and Wit. The show is well produced with visuals and high design that you usually do not see at the Fringe. The performers sang so Beautifully and acted with such truth, pathos and emotion ......... and many times were just damn funny! The music again was complex and would remind one of Sondheim ( great lyrics ) or Copland. The show runs an hour I believe ..... But Bravo!

DARRELL JAMES says "loved it" - June 14, 2013
AESOPERA was a great new experiences for the Hollywood Fringe. I love music, although I don't normally attend " Opera ". I tend to rule on the side of scores for film, broadway and jazz standards. My rule of thumb for the FRINGE is to go to one straight theater piece and one with music. Aesopera did not disappoint. The music by Jonathan Price ( not the actor ) was wonderful, layered, quirky in the best sense, cool and beautiful. The five operas based on Aesop's fables were so well crafted and acted out. The Sunday afternoon cast I saw sang so beautifully well ! AND they could Act equally as well ..... The actors amazingly never left the stage. It began and ended in the same place. I also loved the the look and colors of the whole production with artwork. There is a piece called The Fisher & The Wishes that really lights up the stage. The final opera is where composer Price uses quirkiness, beauty and absurdity to deliver a stinging parody on politics with quasi endearment, devouring and seduction using the goddess Athena and frogs ..... How Greek is THAT! LOL! No dull angst ridden cliches in this production. Great Job by the ensemble CAST!!

ANONYMOUS says "loved it" - June 13, 2013
Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing AESOPERA, performed at the Hollywood Fringe.
Five mini-chamber operas based on AESOP's Fables. Each actor is worth noting.
The comedic timing of each is impeccable; their singing and acting is undeniable.
I enjoy all five but my favorites were The Fisher and the Wishes and The Inventor and the Riddle.
I encourage you to go see this production

CLIVE SOLOMON says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
I really enjoyed this opera. The music is melodic unlike some dissonant modern operas. The five mini operas move the action quickly while still giving substance to the topics of each. The singers gave great performances with strong musicality and acting ability. The final opera piece is a hoot with many laugh out loud moments. I would recommend you check it out.

WINDSOR SMITH says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
I do enjoy some stagings of opera, although I'm more of a new composer buff. That was why I was intrigued to see Aesopera, and I can't say I was disappointed.

The music swept me up into the stories, and the very talented actors/singers kept me there. Although I found some of the staging at odds with the meat of the story (especially in Frogs), I was very impressed with the voices I found, and the acting of several of the performers was simply outstanding.

Like several of the other "reviewers," I was especially taken with The Fisher and the Wishes and The Inventor and the Riddles, but must admit a tear in my eye at the end of Queen, and over the sad plight of the lion in Wood Nymphs.

Really, an exceptional day at the theater. Thank you to Southern Cali Lyric Theater for making it available to us.

SCOTT CLEVENGER says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
While an operatic treatment of Aesop's Fables might seem either inappropriately highbrow, or a case of Reader's Theater gone mad, Aesopera is, in fact, a fast, fun, and surprisingly touching show. The conceit of using these timeless morality tales as a lens for viewing modern society works surprisingly well, since human nature doesn't appear to have changed noticeably since the the 5th Century B.C.E. With one brief tale flowing into the next, the show switches gears quickly and easily between satire (the witty evisceration of electoral politics in "The Frogs and The Crane") and tragedy (the sometimes deadly consequences of our assumptions about love and gender in "The Queen and The Dragon"). Benefiting from a lively score, gorgeous singing, and performances that are both heartfelt and witty, Aesopera offers a unique twist on its classic source material, and delivers one of the definite highlights of the Fringe festival.

MELISSA PIANTEDOSI says "loved it" - June 15, 2013
I attended the June 15th performance, and it was such a treat! I can say that I laughed and cried in the short production that lasted a little over an hour.

MARGARET SLOVER says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
I have to say, I was skeptical heading into this production. I've seen my fair share of opera, but have not developed much of a taste for more modern works. Aesopera was a pleasant surprise! The story lines of these five fables provided the perfect dose of comedy, tragedy, wit and heart - all in about an hour. The cast I saw was particularly strong and versatile in their performances. The tenor, Craig McEldowney, gave a stand-out performance that had me laughing, crying, and entranced with his beautiful voice. Overall, a lovely show that is approachable and fun for the whole family.

ANONYMOUS says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
Amazing! Jonathan Prices music blew me away. Can't wait to see his future shows including THE ISLAND this July in Noho.

WENDY STACKHOUSE says "loved it" - June 13, 2013
I of course, loved this show. Outside of being married (full disclosure!) to Jeffrey Stackhouse, I've seen it & had a terrific time at many of its workshop incarnations. Jonathan Price's music is complex and meaty and beautiful.

But the reason I'm here is Jeffrey has asked me to say:

"Gods bless Amanda Maddox, whoever she be, but I'm the one who feels honored and constantly challenged working with these fine casts. Rather than their being inspired by me, I'm inspired by them on a night-to-night basis.
The confidence comes from knowing how many pros there are around to catch, should ever we fall. -- But, yeah, thanks Amanda, you're obviously a sweet soul. Glad you liked it."

And I (Wendy) couldn't recommend this show highly enough.

STEVEN RIFKIN says "liked it" - June 15, 2013
I'll admit I came into this a little skeptical. I'm not a huge fan of big budget opera in the first place. Attaching the word "fringe" didn't help my expectations. And that is more or less why I am taking the time to review this production now. The show was great and a real surprise. The fables driving the book and music were unique and kept my attention and the actor's performances were quite good with a few standout and memorable measures.

If you have the time this production is worth seeing.

ALEX SCOTT says "liked it" - June 10, 2013
Opera isn't exactly my first choice when it comes to theatre, but if you're into it, then you should have a great time. This show is so well produced, in every since of the word, that it makes up for the small things I had gripes about. The actors are amazing singers but the fact that this is an opera makes them hard to understand at times - especially if you're not familiar with the source material (and yes, it's in English). The acting at times can be a bit of a bore, as no one does anything particularly special to really make their characters stand out. All of that said, the last segment more than makes up for anything that is "wrong" with this show, and if you can stick with it, you should end up having a good time.

HELEN ACOSTA says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
Wow. See this show. It was emotional, funny and beautiful. Great Opera has this weird ability to short circuit my brain and I fall into moments of utter catharsis. The only drawback is that normally I have to sit through 3 hours of Opera (much of it not so exciting) to experience just a few of these moments. Not so with this show, both my hubby and I found ourselves utterly engrossed and, at times, opening weeping (loudly...sorry about that)in the front row.

The cast was wonderful as were the book and music. I truly enjoyed the entire show.

ENRIQUE ACOSTA says "loved it" - June 16, 2013
Best show in the Fringe. Fun, inventive and moving. A fresh take on old tales and styles brilliantly executed by a stellar cast.

J.R. CLARK says "loved it" - June 17, 2013
A bright Sunday Afternoon was made even brighter with AESOPERA and the beautiful music! I did not know what to expect. I have experience all kinds of theatre over the years. There was a period, where most theatre was all so very, very good. Now days, like the film industry, it is so hit or miss, with the lack of creativity or originality.

I will start out my review with a simple BRAVO to The ENTIRE AESOPERA TEAM & HOLLYWOOD FRINGE. This show is an hour long with some loose change. That loose change is all gold. There is color to the whole piece. You see this just as you look at the stage waiting for the show to start. Then there is more color as an attractive group of players take the stage

( In a Formal fashion mind you! ) waiting for a young pianist to hit the stage, so the show can begin. ( You have now caught my attention! ) The music in parts is beautifully melancholic, like a West Side Story or a Sunday In The Park with George ( There was artwork on the stage too ). There were wonderful shifts in the show going from tragedy to a high energized musical section like the very clever mini opera The Fisher & The Wishes. The energy and action on stage just flowed! The cast was so very talented with an excellent sound and wonderful sense of acting. The " Frog " piece, a politcal satire, was funny! Good gawd, physically well done and OPERATIC! ...... Yet one has to think of the STATE of affairs in OUR Country! Beautifully Done Southern CA Lyric Theater! Who am I ...... Just an audience member looking for good theatre. Thank you! I am looking forward to seeing and hearing Jonathan Price's THE ISLAND!

DARREN MANGLER says "liked it" - June 26, 2013
Thank God for Jefferey Stackhouse! He is a powerhouse on stage. From a back-stabbing father to a bitter frog, Jeff brought incredible timing, acting and song. The other singers were very talented! The only gripe was I couldn't understand most of their words even though they were singing in English. The show itself was constantly trying. Trying to do what, I don't know, but I could see it trying. I'm glad I saw it. It should definitely be in the Fringe community.

ERNEST KEARNEY says "loved it" - June 29, 2013
Silly me. Here I went into "Æsopera" expecting a wild and wacky parody of an opera, and what I got, well was opera.
Five tales by Aesop the ancient Greek fabulist are presented here as operettas.
Some like "The Frogs Who Desired a King" are delivered as the fables themselves. Others like "The Dog and its Reflection" seem to have been adapted with the intention of posing a more modern moral to the audience.
Composer & librettist Jonathan Price in partnership with librettists Jeff Goode and Jan Michael Alejandro have done solid work in presenting pieces that are both entertaining and assessable to even an "Opera-lite" audience (of which I count myself)
Directors Kirk Arnold-Smith and Alison Eliel Kalmus serve the evening splendidly as does musical director Leonardo Sciolis.
But in opera it always comes down to the voices. Blanche Ramirez, Victoria Graves and Miguel Vargas all display the training and the pipes the evening calls for. Kaylie Ann Warfield shines as Athena in the "Frogs and the Crane" based on "The Frogs Who Desired a King" or "The Frogs Who Asked for Queen" depending on your source. Kyle Hester provides some great laughs and shows an astute sense of comic timing, while Jeffrey Stackhouse walks away with the Golden Warbler Award for the evening.
A truly delightful show for both the connoisseurs of the art and "Opera-lite" shleps like yours truly.

MORNA MURPHY MARTELL says "liked it" - June 29, 2013
Opera Lovers should appreciate this unique and daring show. Though I must confess Grand Opera is not my thing, yet I could see - and certainly hear - the talent in this company. Drawing loosely from a number of lesser-known Aesop's Fables, this truly bravura ensemble engages us in a series of life-lessons. My definite favorite was the man who wants to create a flying machine and goes to the Oracle who asks him three questions about life. When he answers them correctly, she gives him the secret of flight. However, by pondering these enigmatic questions he realizes his invention can be used in war and, when his own son marches off seeking glory, the man wisely destroys his invention. Other parables were often difficult to follow as, sadly, much of the words are lost in the soaring vibrations of full-throated singing. Among the excellent cast, most impressive is Jeffrey Stackhouse who I hope to see perform the lead role in "Man of La Mancha" some day soon. Show is presented by the excellent Southern California Lyric Theater Company.
Morna Murphy Martell, theater critic for NOT BORN YESTERDAY and

BEN ATKINSON says "loved it" - June 29, 2013
What a treat! A massively talented cast, a clever and delightful series of compositions. It's a family-friendly; funny-bone-tickling; heart-wrenching; surprisingly topical yet, classically timeless must-see.

ANONYMOUS says "loved it" - June 25, 2013
Beautifully sung, thoughtfully staged, a delightful evening of opera. Opera on this small scale can fall into traps of seeming unproduced or more like a recital, but I think this production threaded the the needle beautifully. Jeffrey Stackhouse gave a really thoughtful performance and and Tania Solomon shone. While I love grand opera productions, it was refreshing to see a production focussed on the music. A welcome offering in the Fringe Festival.

ERIN SCOTT says "liked it" - June 26, 2013
This is definitely a break from what you can normally see at Fringe. The vocalists were true professionals. I am not a big fan of Opera but wanted to make a point of seeing this at the Fringe. The last segment is by far the most entertaining and best acted. While the performers are amazing vocalists I wish there was more character development throughout the majority of the pieces. Due to technical issues this show also started nearly 20 minutes late which led to me worrying more about time and getting to my next show than being able to enjoy the show.

KELLY GOODMAN says "loved it" - June 26, 2013
I enjoyed this show so much! I thought the music was beautiful and the libretti touching, clever and meaningful. I was really impressed with not only the singer's voices...but their acting too!

COREY LYNN HOWE says "loved it" - June 26, 2013
Having had the pleasure of working with a few people in the production before, I knew I was walking into a quality show. I was not in the least bit disappointed either. Such beautiful, operatic voices, and how clever to have adapted some of Aesop's fables into opera! Well done, cast and crew!

JENNIFER FULLWOOD says "loved it" - June 27, 2013
Superb, Fun & Clever! I attended the June 25th performance. While I originally attended to see the outstanding soprano Tania Solomon perform- I thought the entire cast was wonderful & I thoroughly enjoyed all 5 acts. Both the singing AND acting was top notch. Hope to see these artists perform together again! Best show I've seen at Hollywood Fringe!!

SPENCER SOLOMON says "loved it" - June 28, 2013
I loved the Frogs scene when Athena said "Quiet!" and then a frog said "Robbed" one last time. Most of the opera was sad but some of it was funny. I dressed up well for this special occasion. I hope you like my review. I am a kid but I still liked it. Thanks.

DEVON SOLOMON says "loved it" - June 28, 2013
I really liked the one with the frogs. It was a really fun opera. I had a really good time. I wish I could see it again. I also really liked the one with the lion. It was so awesome. Kids might like this because there is a lot of awesome stuff and it's very funny.

PEPPUR CHAMBERS says "loved it" - June 28, 2013
After experiencing "AEsopera", I walked out of the theater smiling and feeling like, "This is what Fringe is about!" Elyse Cook and I were promoting our shows on Facebook and reached out to one another for comp exchanges, and I'm so thrilled we both followed up and made it happen! This was my first introduction to live Opera (as opposed to programs on PBS) and I'm quite happy for the experience.

I'll admit my Opera ears took a bit to warm up, so I was lost in the first piece, The Lion & The Wood Nymph, except from what I interpreted through the very capable and effective acting. However, by the time we rolled to The Fisher & The Wives, I was in full swing and loved every moment of the hilarious The Frogs & The Crane...actually, I may have been lost a bit on The Inventor & The Riddle, but again, the acting kept me engaged if I couldn't catch the dialogue.

I attended on June 25 and our cast that day was:
Tania Solomon
Elyse Cook
Sarah Reynolds
Miguel Vargas
Kyle Hester
Jeffrey Stackhouse

Thank you, Elyse and THANK YOU to the fantastic cast and production.

MELANIE JARVIS says "loved it" - June 28, 2013
Aesopera is a delight! The music and acting are fabulously entertaining. The five "skits" are well played by all. I would recommend it...

JORDAN MONSELL says "loved it" - June 29, 2013
If you are someone like me who is a bit intimidated by the term "opera", you needn't be in this case. Aesopera is presented in English by an extremely talented cast of singers. The tableaus they create on stage with their voices and bodies is striking. I tip my hat to the director for bringing opera to what was once a Fringe Festival devoid of it.

LOIS WEISS says "loved it" - June 22, 2013
Where else can you find actors who turn into frogs? At the Hollywood Fringe Festival's dynamic production of AESOPERA at the Open Fist Theatre.,of course. Five fables by Aesop are wonderfully transformed into a combination of opera, drama and just plain slapstick with a talented cast that brings together all the skills that theater is made of. With music by the amazing Jonathan Price and libretto by Jeff Goode and Jan Michael Alejandro, AESOPERA is a delicious piece of entertainment,,,not to be missed. I also have to send kudos to cast member Kyle Hester who was a drama student of mine in middle-school. Kyle, you've come a long way. Loved it all.