By Jennifer Mustoe
For years, I’ve been reviewing theater and thought that was that. Some time ago, it occurred to me that maybe production companies that have other forms of performance arts may also want to part of the Front Row Reviewers Utah family and participate in our Celebrating the GOOD in Utah Arts. Utah Opera quickly has become one of our favorite venues and this is why–Utah Opera is creating opera that everyone can enjoy.
When Front Row Reviewers Utah first partnered with Utah Opera, as FRRU’s owner, I freaked out. I thought, how can I write a review about something I know very little about? I’ve seen one opera in my life. I searched and thankfully quickly found some opera experts to write for FRRU. And that is fabulous. Please read their pieces here:
However, yesterday, my photographer husband Craig Mustoe and I went to Utah Opera’s pre-production Media Photo Shoot for their upcoming Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi and it was like a light went off in my head. Here’s the light: EVERYBODY SHOULD COME TO THE OPERA! We can all love it! Let me tell you why I say this. I went to meet and interview some of the performers and production staff of the Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi while my husband snapped away on his camera. Every. Single. Person I talked to was approachable, friendly, sincere, patient, kind, and enthusiastic. While remarkably professional in all ways, each person enthused about the production but also their sheer joy they feel being a part of it.
I first spoke with Tenor Scott Piper, who returns to Utah Opera after his role in Madame Butterfly in 2008 to play Canio. Dressed in his clown costume, Piper chatted with me and frankly, he was so patient and fun and kind to me, he is clearly an awfully nice man. I actually said to him, “My dad was in the chorus in an opera in New York, then went on to be Bozo the Clown, so we (meaning Piper and I) are now complete best friends.” Yes, I said that. Totally lame. But he was so fun and enthusiastic. When he was being interviewed by a TV reporter from Park City, she asked him to say his title, and he chuckled. She prompted, “Say anything. Like, I’m the best opera singer in the world.” Piper hesitated and then said, “Tenor.” Love that. Piper talked about his character and I was so very impressed with the amount of time he’s obviously put into creating Canio. He said that people will be able to relate to the passion of the story, the frailty we feel in relationships. He related that Pagliacci speculates about what does friendship really mean? Is there honesty in every friendship? When asked what does he love about working with Utah Opera, he said that was an easy question to answer. He said that it is very community based but globally aware. He said, “Utah seems to really support the Arts in a beautiful way.”
I next spoke to Utah native Marina Costa-Jackson, who told me a little of her story. She comes from a musical family and her two sisters (Miriam Costa-Jackson and Ginger Costa-Jackson) are also opera singers. As the middle girl, she watched her other two sisters show an interest in singing, but Marina didn’t start singing until she was 21. This story alone is so inspiring–that she has been able to build a career so quickly and here she is, back at home in Utah after having performed in several noteworthy operas elsewhere. Costa-Jackson is vibrant, yet filled with grace. I cannot wait to see her perform.
Next I spoke with the costumer and she said she was thrilled to work with so many really quality and truly fine, kind, caring people. She said this cast has been like a family and all are working together to make the performance amazing.
Finally, I was able to listen to Director Tara Faircloth speak of this next production. Here are a few of her comments: “Opera is never easy.” (She said this with a small laugh.) She added, “This is one of the most exciting opera pairings you can see. There’s a little bit of something for everyone. And we all go home laughing.”
The more I spent time with these fine people, the more I realized it is high time I spent some time at the opera. I am encouraging us all to come to Utah Opera’s upcoming production. As Faircloth says: There is a little bit of something for everyone.
Utah Opera presents Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo/Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini, Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101
March 10, 12, 14, 16 18 7:30 PM
Utah Opera Facebook Page
Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi Facebook Event