The Magic Flute – Picoplat makes opera magic
Tevin Gall for Newsday - T&T Opera Festival 2017 - July 2017
Short and sweet, like the run of the festival itself, was the Picoplat Young Artist Collective’s abridged production of Mozart’s timeless opera, The Magic Flute, which made a four-show run during the group’s occupancy at the newly-opened Government Campus Plaza in Port of Spain. The music of The Magic Flute is known for including some of the highest and lowest notes in the soprano and bass repertoire, respectively. The role of the wicked Queen of the Night soars up into the stratosphere and calls for an arrow-like precision while the role of good and wise Sarastro demands that the singer delves into the gravelly depths of his instrument. This could make casting a challenge but, with our proud pool of local operatic talent, Picoplat made it happen. Natalia Dopwell, as the Queen, appeared on stage as a force of energy, rendering the role with all the requisite rage of a villain and the grace of a monarch to temper it. Shellon Antoine as Sarastro, antithesis to the Queen, was a serene presence whose arias– unlike the fast-paced, agitated rhythms of the Queen’s pieces–offer a reverent, hymn-like calm. Antoine’s rumbling bass caressed the lowest notes of his pieces with graceful ease and clarity.
Spellbound by The Magic Flute
Shazim Khan for Break the Proscenium - The Magic Flute - July 2017
Dr. Helmer Hilwig’s minimalist direction of this abridged version of the Mozart’s opera, was both accessible and thoroughly delightful. The sparse set design helped to focus the audience’s attention where it was most needed; the actors. The decision to perform unamplified lent a very organic and authentic feel to the whole affair. Under the baton of June Nathaniel, the musical accompaniment; a simple trifecta of a piano, a flute (of course), and percussion, was wonderful, feeling as alive and real as the people on stage.
The story flowed smoothly, keeping a pace that never dragged. The first scene opening on the dangerous and terrible dragon hot on the heels of the noble and terrified prince Tamino (Rory Wallace), who belted his fears and pleas for help in a strong and impressively controlled voice that worked as a suitable introduction to the operatic style. The trio of Ladies that immediately followed with their mind-boggling and enchanting harmonies truly convinced me that they might be otherworldly beings with voices that wrap around and weave into each other, slaying dragons and saving princes.
The Impresario – the true magic of the night
Isaiah Alexander for Break the Proscenium - Impresario & Broadway Revue - November 2016
In the landscape of candy pop music, four-chord Billboard hits, monotonous hooks and Ice JJ Fish, it was incredibly refreshing to spend a night allowing artfully crafted classical music to wash over the senses... The night was truly an ode to legendary composers and lyricists like Mozart, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II who undoubtedly shaped the landscape of music and the modern musical... a very enjoyable night, and offered an evening of entertainment for classical music enthusiasts, musical lovers, theatre goers and patrons of the arts. It was truly a job well done.
Love transcends and transforms into Art
Timothy Millington for Break the Proscenium - Tales of Hoffmann Review - July 2016
Does the Prince Charming always win the heart of the doe-eyed maiden and live happily ever after? Not always. On Friday July 8, 2016 at Queen’s Hall, I had the pleasure of experiencing Picoplat Music Development Foundation’s production of “Tales of Hoffmann”, a scintillating romance that chronicles the woes of love and loss experienced by the Opera’s protagonist, Hoffmann, played by Raguel Gabriel. I expected nothing short of phenomenal music and singing. Aside from a few tentative moments by the chorus in the Prologue, which I could easily chalk up to jitters, my expectations were met.
Love, good music reign at Hoffmann
Tevin Gall for Trinidad & Tobago Newsday - Tales of Hoffmann Review - July 2016
The 2016 Opera Festival got off to an excellent start with a production of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann that was at once, a vocal and comedic delight. A team of young vocalists took to the stage under the dramatic direction of CMDFTT musical director, June Nathaniel and veteran stage director, Dr Helmer Hilwig. The duo, once again, pulled off an operatic triumph, producing a strong chorus that was both theatrically and musically sound while the accompaniment, prominently featuring US-based pianist, Dr Jefferey Middleton was shaped by Nathaniel’s expert direction.
Dike Ramdeen for Faithful Mirror - July 2015
This year's show was a terrific success. From the instrumental accompaniment to the actors' performances to the stage decorations, all facets of the production were meticulously crafted and drilled so as to ensure audience members were transported to 19th century Italy. The actors sang each song with a feeling and drama that made it hard not to sympathize with the confused Hoffman. The complexity of the themes explored during the play also kept audience members hooked, as each of Hoffman's relationships represented different types of love.
Everybody does it
Simon Lee for Trinidad Guardian - Cosi fan tutte review - July 2015
Whether by design, or fortuitous synergy, the combination of these six lead voices (the young blades with Canadian baritone Justin Welsh as Guglielmo and Chilean tenor Diego Godoy-Gutierrez as Ferrando; their sweethearts the sisters, with Trinidad’s star coloratura soprano Natalia Dopwell as Fiordiligi and compatriot mezzo soprano Megan Pollonais as Dorabella; the two schemers: Trini baritone Daniel DeCranie-Pierre as Don Alfonso manipulator extraordinaire and Trini soprano Stephanie Nahous as his mercenary sidekick, the maid Despina, doubling up as doctor and notary) provided a dynamics of sound, in which individual styles both complemented and augmented each other.
“Women are like that” or aren’t they?
Timothy Millington for Break the Proscenium - Cosi fan tutte review - July 2015
... I have to express how extraordinarily proud I was of the leading men. I often see theatrical productions where male performing artists are awkward or uncomfortable on stage. It speaks volumes about their commitment to their craft and I was delighted that the men of Cosi Fan Tutte committed to their roles and its development on stage. ...Not to be out done in any way, were the women of Cosi Fan Tutte, Fiordiligi (Natalia Dopwell) and Dorabella (Maegan Pollonais) and Despina (Stephanie Nahous). Fiordiligi and Dorabella were sisters which Dopwell and Pollonais portrayed well. Their fantastic chemistry on stage made their characters’ relationship believable. My favourite performance came from Dopwell though who embodied an 18th century woman from Naples exceptionally well; every movement and mannerism created a complete character. Nahous got an opportunity to show off her acting chops as she portrayed the Despina, the maid, the Doctor and finally the Notary before the big reveal of the plot at the end.
'Die Fledermaus' delights
Anne Hilton for Trinidad & Tobago Newsday - June 2014
Conductor June Nathaniel kept pianists and singers in sync throughout. Indeed, the Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago is to be complimented on a truly excellent performance of this tuneful, lighthearted Strauss operetta. It was indeed and in fact a delight, a positive tonic to send the audience home humming the waltz tunes and smiling at the jokes and ridiculous situations in the piece. “Die Fledermaus” proved that there is a wealth of musical talent in TT, that good music isn’t dead or dying – perhaps thanks to the UTT music programme and without doubt due to the Classical Music Development Foundation of TT. We look forward to their next production.