The Prince George's Civic Opera next week will begin a fundraising drive that officials hope will raise $10,000 from 3,500 individuals and 1,000 businesses. The funds will help sponsor Operafest III next February.
The drive comes just three weeks after the finale of Operfest II, which Dorothy Biondi, general manager and artistic director, called "a concelebration of opera and all its related arts." The festival included two world premieres; an American premiere; seminars by music experts; and workshops on makeup, acting and modern dance.
Preparations for next year's festival began almost immediately after the final curtain. The festival is devoted primarily to new works, and Biondi already is urging composers to send in scores for consideration.
The fund drive is the next step in the planning process. Next year's production is expected to cost more than $10,000 and involve more than 100 performers, technicians and support personnel.
Much of the responsibility for the production of the operafests lies with two full-time and two part-time employes. But Biondi said she can depend on dozens of volunteers, and added, "We're getting more community support all the time -- nearly 1,000 persons came to this year's festival."
Those who attended Operafest II -- held two consecutive weekends in January at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly -- saw chamber operas, modern dance performances and a light show. They also had an opportunity to talk with performers and composers onstage.
The festival opened with the world premiere of "Jack," an opera based on Eugene Ionesco's absurdist play about a woman with three noses. Thomas Cain, the composer and librettist, sewed together a musical quilt of borrowed themes of known composers. His individual stamp is on the ensembles (quintets, sextets).
The title role was sung by tenor Alburtt Rhodes, who wrung all the pathos possible from Cain's vocal lines. Welcome support came from other cast members, some of the area's best young singers: Susan Wright (Jacqueline), Cynthia Beitmen (Mother Jack), Robert Patton (Father Jack), Judith Borczuk (Roberta), Karen Hettinger (Mother Roberta) and Dale McKinley (Father Roberta).
Stewart J. Seal, set and lighting designer, teamed with Biondi, the director, to create a visual eeriness in perfect complement to Cain's music. Strong red, green and gold spotlights splashed onto giant burlap backdrops. Conductor Marc Tardue and his 13 players showed facility in harnessing the composer's wayward scoring.
The composer answered questions after the performance, saying his premiere work in last year's festival (Operathon 1979) had a better story, but that "Jack" was musically a better work.
The festival continued with Gordon Gustin, director of Con Viva Musica (a choral work specializing in the performance of the earliest music ever composed), explaining the relationship of renaissance music to modern opera. The group demonstrated with seldom-heard madrigals, most from the 16th century.
Festival-goers later saw "Dreamscape," a theater piece for tapes, lights and dance by Lawrence Moss in its world premiere. Moss, head of the composition department at the University of Maryland for more than 10 years, prefaced the work's debut saying, "Hopefully, it will be something to hang your ears on."
The image-rich poems of Ann Lusby-Pinchot -- the text for the Moss piece -- were read almost too placidly by the poet herself. A pregnant Michele Pecora, a symbol for the imagination in her own right, added the human factor: the interpretation of the images through dance. The voice of Moss' wife spliced the synthesized musical sounds he invented with a reading of the poetry. A more intimate setting for "Dreamscape" only could improve its effect.
The work that closed the festival had premiered in Brussels four days earlier. "Ben" is an opera created after its composer read an account of how a mistranslation caused an international incident.
David Miller, who grew up in Bowie and studied at the University of Maryland, wrote "Ben" as a topical alternative to operas written about historical incidents.
Monica Otal (Ellen) and John Day (Ben) created tangible characters. But despite a clarifying prologue, they were obscured by others in the cast. Wayne Jones (Wicked Arms Supplier) was sinister of voice, but about as fearsome as one of the Munster family on television.Marvin Finnley was commanding as Le General, singing and bantering in French while his adversary, Gene Galvin (Sir), repeated every word he said in English. There again was direct borrowing from other composers, suggesting an inability to develop a personal style on the part of the composer. Margaret Stricklett (Dina) and Jenean Haskell Jones (Gina) were a delight in Dixie Schelm's well-thought-out costumes. The writing for their duets and many other paintings was the work's strength.
As Alien Chorus was devised to comment on the direction of events during the opera. The Alien Queen four-note vocal variations on the sound "Ah" included high notes that only a flexible coloratura (Lisa Gibson here), would attempt.
Conductor William Huckaby, with only two pianos, a synthesizer and a cellist on and off stage, achieved grandiose results. The extent on which he understood the work rivaled that of the composer. After the premiere, Huckaby spoke to the audience and squelched doubts about the composition. Miller's next composition is expected to be "An American opera . . . with a baseball setting."
Akim Nowak's direction was valiant in so complex a score, but the actionless segments seemed to stretch the work beyond its 55 minutes.
"Ben" was presented under the patronage of Lucie de Myttenaere, cultural counselor for the Belgian embassy.