Festival series spotlights opera on film

June 19, 1998|By Judith Green

For a real oxymoron, consider that the first film of a complete opera was made during the silent era: "Der Rosenkavalier" in 1924. It was screened at a benefit in London, with composer Richard Strauss conducting its huge orchestra and all the singers in the pit of the Tivoli Theater.

Nowadays, opera for the camera is fairly common -- not in theaters, maybe, but certainly on television. And, in fact, the "Opera on Film" series of the Maryland Arts Festival at Towson University is actually opera on video, projected on a theater-size screen.

In its 10th year, the series pays homage to Baltimore's own diva, Rosa Ponselle, with a July 19 talk by Bette Hankin, a mezzo who studied with Ponselle and was a longtime member of Baltimore Opera company.

The talk will precede a showing of "Golden Voices of the Century," a documentary featuring the only known film footage of Ponselle: her screen test at MGM for a possible film of "Carmen," which was never made.

The opera series starts this weekend, and here's the lineup: Sunday: "Porgy and Bess" by George Gershwin, in the 1991 Glyndebourne Festival production with Cynthia Haymon as Bess, a role she sang last month for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Gershwin centenary tribute. Willard White is Porgy. Sir Simon Rattle conducts; Trevor Nunn (of "Cats" fame) was the stage director.

June 28: "La Cenerentola," Rossini's Italian version of "Cinderella," with mezzo superstar Cecilia Bartoli in her American opera debut with Houston Grand Opera in 1995.

July 12: "Otello," Verdi's great collaboration with Shakespeare. Placido Domingo is the Moor, Kiri Te Kanawa is Desdemona and Sergei Leiferkus a thrilling and evil Iago in this 1992 video from the Royal Opera Covent Garden.

All screenings are at 1: 30 p.m. in the Studio Theater of Towson's Fine Arts Center. Each will be introduced by a speaker.

Tickets are $7 or $20 for the series. Call 410-830-2787.

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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