Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Jewel Theatre Company offers vibrant 'Master Class' on art and life

You may not think you understand, or even like opera. Still, you might find yourself drawn into the lush world of Master Class, a sharply observed drama about opera and life that's the third offering from Jewel Theatre Company in its new home at the Colligan Theater at the Tannery.

Written in 1995 by Terrence McNally, the play imagines a voice class conducted by iconic diva, Maria Callas, during her tenure as guest lecturer at the Julliard School, New York City, in 1971-72.

Yes, a few snippets of operatic arias are sung during the course of the play, seeded in for maximum effect at crucial emotional moments, and delivered by a cast of excellent singers in the roles of Callas' Julliard students.

What's opera, Doc? Torres Koss and Gallagher.
But fear not; it doesn't matter if your Italian is a little rusty. Callas herself—beautifully played con brio by Patty Gallagher—is onstage throughout to talk us through the passion conveyed in the words. And the way these words reflect the deep passions of La Callas' life, gradually revealed in brief, moving monologues, drives the drama forward.

This production is impressively directed by Susan Myer Silton as a chamber piece for five: Callas, three of her nervous, starstruck voice students, and her piano accompanist (the ever-reliable Diana Torres Koss)—or six, if you count a couple of comic appearances by a surly stagehand (Lucas Brandt). The action takes place over real time, with Mark Hopkins' minimal set of wood-grain panels suggesting an academic lecture hall.

Into this low-key milieu strides Gallagher's imperious, larger-than-life Callas, exuding wry wit, banked fire, and disingenuous modesty. ("We are not here to talk about me," she reminds us constantly.) From her very first entrance, she takes the audience into her confidence, addressing us throughout the play as if we were all students in the lecture hall auditing her class. (Read more)

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