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Hub Opera Ensemble makes its own music

About 60 attend group's inaugural performance at Kepler Theater

September 24, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Opera singer Caitlin Budny right performs as Ginevra Friday night at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theatre, in The Hub Opera Ensemble presentation of Ariodante. Looking on at rear is Francesca Aguado as Ariodante.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

It had been a few decades since aficionados could enjoy a night at the opera in Hagerstown, but that changed Friday with "Ariodante," the inaugural performance of the Hub Opera Ensemble at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

Billed as "A tale of love, deceit, intrigue, and forgiveness," the opera tells the story of the title character, a Scottish prince in love with the King's daughter, Ginevra, and the plot by Ariodante's rival, Polinesso, to foil their romance.

It's an opera about Scottish royalty by a German-born composer, George Friederich Handel, sung in Italian, first performed in London and, in this production, updated to Chicago in the 1930s. For those whose Italian is a bit rusty, English subtitles were projected above the stage.

The opera will have a second performance Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Kepler Theater.

"Something we feel is very near and dear to our hearts is we don't want this art form to die out," soprano Caitlin Budny said as she prepared for her role as Ginevra.

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In another part of the theater, soprano Heather Fetrow warmed up her voice for the role of Dalinda, Ginevra's friend unwittingly brought into Polinesso's plot.

"We want to make it accessible and affordable to the public" to give opera fans local performances and perhaps inspire a new generation of fans, said Budny, a graduate of Catholic University who also studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.

"I really hope we can introduce a lot of people to opera in a positive way ... I hope they want more once we're finished tonight," mezzo-soprano Francesca Aguado said as she prepared for the title role.

"That's a common thing for my voice type," Aguado said of playing a male role.

The University of Maryland graduate, who has traveled as far as Austria to study music, took to the stage in a fedora and gray pinstripe suit.

Aguado and Budny are planning a spring production, though they have not settled on any particular opera at this point. They hope to gain nonprofit status in the near future in order to be eligible for grants and tax-deductible donations and sponsorships, Aguado said.

Biraj Barkakaty as Polinesso, Alan Naylor as Lurcanio and Joshua Brown as the King filled out the cast. Joseph Marschner, assistant professor of music and drama at HCC, was the stage director.

Other than road show productions such as "Phantom of the Opera" at The Maryland Theatre, Marschner said his research has not found any evidence of a homegrown opera performance in the area for 50 years or more. Budny, Aguado and Naylor have been helping with an opera lecture series through HCC's Continuing Education and Community Services Division, he said.

About 60 people attended the first performance of the ensemble. In the front row was Sylvia Rodgers, a part-time staff member at HCC.

"I've never been to the opera before, so I think this is a very good chance to experience it," Rodgers said as she waited for the curtain to open.

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