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Fusion Theatre merges opera into Anouilh's "Antigone" (May 17-28)
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 09:41 pm EDT 04/13/17

FUSION THEATRE MERGES TEXT AND OPERA IN ITS PRESENTATION OF ANOUILH'S "ANTIGONE."
PLAY IS A CRI DE CŒUR OF RESISTANCE AGAINST AUTHORITARIANISM.
Company's concept is to combine classical music with classic plays.

WHERE AND WHEN:
May 17 to 28, 2017
Theatre Row - The Studio Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street (Between 9th and 10th Avenues)
Presented by Fusion Theatre (http://fusiontheatresite.wixsite.com/home)
Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 PM
$37.50 general admission; $25 seniors and students
Box office: Telecharge, (212) 239-6200, www.telecharge.com
Runs 2 hours including intermission

French playwright Jean Anouilh wrote his "Antigone" during the Nazi occupation of France. It became a symbol of resistance as freedom fighters viewed the heroine's defiance as a crie de cœur of patriotism. The play, written with a modern sensibility, is based on the Greek tragedy of the princess who dies for burying her brother's corpse against the orders of her dictator uncle. Its parallels to modern times are exciting and provocative. Fusion Theatre, whose mission is to strengthen classic plays with the great art of opera, will present the work May 17 to 28 at The Studio Theatre in Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, directed by Eilin O'Dea. The production will use the 1946 translation by Lewis Galantière, which is distinguished in itself, but will be enhanced by sung selections from five classic operas. All members of the cast have a rare combination of talents: they are masterful opera singers who are also accomplished actors.

The production comes to New York in a time when, with authoritarianism growing the world over, an immediacy attaches itself to plays of resistance. In its time, Anouilh's masterpiece slipped by the German censors as a relatively safe retelling of an ancient tale. The audience, being sharper than their occupiers, saw in King Creon's "practicality" the unmistakable mask of fascism: the assertion that greed, vengeance and gratuitous cruelty are legitimate motivations for political behavior when a head of state is faced with difficult choices. Anouilh paints a rationale in Creon's pragmatism which we now see reflected in any number of 21st-century tyrants. The heroine Antigone, uncompromising in her spirituality and morality, reflects the unbending spirit of those who refused to retreat or surrender to business-as-usual during the Vichy regime. The existential underpinnings of Anouilh's text may have distanced these themes from more contemporary audiences, but many of us today will recognize in the character of Antigone the steel-spined, uncompromising commitment that must be summoned against autocracy. In this production, that realization will be entwined with the deep messages of music, which transcend the spoken word.

Fusion Theatre emerged this year under the leadership of Eilin O'Dea, an award-winning Irish actress/singer who trained at the prestigious LIR Academy, Trinity College, Dublin and has performed at most venues throughout her native Ireland. She is also a Soprano, having trained at the Conservatory of Music, Dublin. She has performed both at concert and operatic platforms including as a guest soprano at St George’s Hall, UK, Mansion House, Dublin, and Edgerton Performing Arts, US. Best known to-date for her groundbreaking interpretations of the works of James Joyce, she has received numerous Culture Ireland awards that have allowed her bring her work here to the United States. Her US film debut is Beacon Picture’s “Grey Lady" (to be released this Spring), which co-stars Natalie Zea, Eric Dane and Amy Madigan. Her Fusion Theatre launched in January, 2016 with a staged reading of James Joyce's "The Dead" on Theatre Row, in which operatic tenor Byron Singleton sang many old Irish ballads. This was followed in September, 2016 with Sartre's "No Exit" at Walkerspace Theatre, which opened with operatic arias about the moment of dying.

In this production of "Antigone," Lewis Galantière's translation of "Antigone" will be enhanced with the chorus line from the opera "Antigone" by Camille Saint-Saëns. Four arias from varied sources will be staggered throughout the play at key moments in time for the principal characters. Antigone will perform "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from Verdi's "La Forza del destino." The First Guard will sing "Deserto Sulla terra" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Creon will perform "Ella giammai" from Verdi's "Don Carlo." The messenger will sing "When I am laid, am laid to rest" from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas." The arias will be performed in their original language and synopses will be printed in the program for audience reference.

The production will be directed by Eilin O'Dea, who plays Antigone. Assistant stage director is Therese Cox. Musical director/accompanist is Eric Kramer. The other performers are David Grant as Haeman, Paul Goodwin Groen as Creon, Sue-Ellen Mandell as Nurse, Byron Singleton as First Guard (Jonas), Allison Threadgold as Ismene, Paulina Yeung as Messenger and 16 year-old Igby Rigney as Page. Set designer is Dahlia Barakat.

Fusion Theatre draws its cast form a tiny pool of classically trained actors who are also accomplished opera singers. Prominent among them are tenor Byron Singleton and bass Paul Goodwin-Groen, whom Eilin O'Dea met while working in regional operas. The other cast members were selected from auditions. O'Dea says, "I was looking for singers who could act, not actors who could sing."

Byron Singleton (First Guard-Jonas) recently made his solo Carnegie Hall debut in a concert featuring the music of Bernstein and Sondheim. He has sung in eleven productions with the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera. His recent roles include Cavaradossi in "Tosca" with MORE Opera conducted by Maestro Anton Coppola, the title role in "Les Contes D'Hoffmann" with Vocal Productions NYC, Manrico in Vera Musica Opera's production of "Il Trovatore,, Rodolfo in "La Boheme" with the Crotan Symphony, Tenor Soloist in Verdi's Requiem and Foresto in "Attila" with Empire Opera, Riccardo in "Un Ballo in Maschera" at Symphony Space and Der Steuermann in "Der Fliegende Hollander" with the United Nations Orchestra.

Paul Goodwin-Groen (Creon) appeared in the original cast of Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway. In UK, he appeared with the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Royal Ballet, London Lyric Opera, Garsington Opera and at the Aldeburgh Festival. In Sydney, he sang with Pacific Opera, Pinchgut Opera, Sydney Chamber Opera, numerous choral societies and the Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra. In New York, he has also worked with New York City Opera, the Bronx Opera, Opera Company of Brooklyn, the DiCapo Opera Theatre. He holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts/Acting from Brandeis.

Set designer Dahlia Barakat trained in Set and Costume Design in Egypt and moved to San Diego in 2007. She has since worked in Washoington, DC and New York. (http://dbarakat.wix.com/dahliabarakat)

For biographies of the full cast, go to www.jsnyc.com/season/antigone_cast.htm.
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