When they gave their first concert 20 years ago at Dr. Dan Damianos’ Pindar Winery, the fledgling opera company had little idea about what would happen in the years ahead. Thanks to the ongoing help and encouragement from Damianos and strong help in those early days from Richard Malone, the then-Superintendent of Southampton School District, the company progressed from giving workshops and presentations in schools to their first fully-staged and costumed production of La Boheme, also at Pindar.
The repertoire expanded and in over the intervening years, the Opera of the Hamptons summer program grew, to comprise, usually, four fully-staged productions plus a couple of what came to be known as their signature evenings. “From Opera to Broadway” provided patrons with an enjoyable and exciting mix of melodies from Mozart to Lloyd Webber and Puccini to Rodgers and Hammerstein. As the company grew so did the quality of the talent prepared to travel all the way to the darkest ends of the North and South Forks, not only from Manhattan but also from countries around the world. Artists from the Met, from South America, Europe and even Tonga have sung key roles over the years in major productions of all of the main opera repertoire.
Opera of the Hamptons has always believed in nurturing and showcasing young talent and each year has named their “Young Performer of the Year,” who has then been given a solo spot during one of the shows. This philosophy has been maintained throughout the years by Barbara Giancola, the Artistic Director, and Atarah Hazzan, the Music Director, who have been an indefatigable pair totally devoted to bringing wonderful music to Eastern Long Island. In this effort they have been aided by a wonderful group of volunteers headed by Martha Scriven Campanella and Margaret Julian.
Apart from Pindar, the Borghese family were gracious hosts at their winery for some years and many followers of the company will remember wonderful outdoor productions at the old Villa Maria in Water Mill, especially the time when Alan Alda, Mel Brooks and his late wife, the wonderful Anne Bancroft, were very enthusiastic audience members and insisted on personally meeting the cast after the show.
Times and economic circumstances change, unfortunately, and in recent years the financial environment has not been kind to many arts companies, and Opera of the Hamptons has not escaped these problems. Suffolk County and New York State have not had the funds they once had to support the arts and the fairy godmother (or father) donor so far has not appeared. So, even though ticket prices have been kept low, the company has been forced to retrench and will only produce one “Opera to Broadway” show this year plus an Opera Workshop that was enthusiastically received recently at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton.
This year’s “From Opera to Broadway” will be at Damianos’ Duck Walk North winery on Saturday June 18, at 7 p.m. The excellent facilities always make for a fun event, especially as many patrons come early and bring along their picnic to eat outdoors with a bottle of excellent Duck Walk wine. A wonderful way to spend a summer evening!
This year’s program will be far ranging and the list of artists reflects the high esteem in which the company is held. Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Hobson, who has won wide acclaim for his performances in Porgy and Bess, and Gioacchino Lauro Li Vigni, a tenor who also has thrilled audiences at the Met, will join mezzo soprano Hayden DeWitt and soprano Maria Cicaglione to enthrall the audience with their beautiful voices. Tickets are available by calling 631-728-8804. They are $45 in advance or $55 on the day of the performance [/expand]