Outstanding performers: Tenor Ronald Samm, from left, Natalia Dopwell. —Photo courtesy The Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago

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‘Die Fledermaus’ starts today

By Verdel Bishop

Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (CMDFTT) (Young Artists Collective) will premiere Johann Strauss’ Operetta, Die Fledermaus at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s today and Sunday from 7.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively. Some of Trinidad’s most outstanding performers including internationally renowned tenor Ronald Samm who will be featured in the lead role. Natalia Dopwell, Ayrice Wilson, Danielle Williams, Raguel Gabriel, Edward Cumberbatch, Shellon Antoine, Marvin Smith, Sabrina Marks, are part of the production which is being directed by Dr Helmer Hilwig, with musical direction by June Nathaniel, accompanied by Enrique Ali & Darren Shillingford with costuming by Margaret Sheppard and set design by Arielle Rostant. 

Die Fledermaus is without doubt Johann Strauss’ masterpiece and the quintessential Viennese operetta, full of jubilation and vitality, containing some of Strauss’ most famous arias and waltzes. The characters are at a masked ball at an exclusive club in the city and each of them, in disguise, seeks the exhilaration and exaltation of love and seduction to forget their woes. After several cases of mistaken identity and trickery, ‘King Champagne’ is blamed by everyone as the reason behind all the pranks.

Die Fledermaus is CMDFTT’s fifth operatic production. In 2011 CMDFTT through the Young Artists Collective which focusses specifically on producing operas was formed. This is their fifth opera since the launch of this initiative. Some past operas include Magic Flute, Dido Aeneas at Daaga Hall and The Impresario and L’Ensant Etles Sortileges which was an opera by Ravel. 

Soprano Natalia Dopwell who sings the role of Rosalinde said preparing for her role has been challenging. “It’s a very long and challenging role. The character is very funny; actually the entire opera is very funny. My role is vocally demanding and quite a challenge. We’ve been having a lot of fun in rehearsals. The story in the opera is sexual with a lot of double entendre. We started musical rehearsals earlier this year and our guest artiste Ronald Samm just arrived in the country last Friday so we are busy doubling up on rehearsals,” Dopwell said. “Each of the cast members is at varying levels of expertise.” She said patrons can look forward to an enthralling experience. 

Ronald Samm, who is widely recognised as one of the most versatile dramatic lyric tenors of his generation said he is happy to sing the role of Eisenstein in the Johann Strauss’ operetta. Three decades ago Samm, who was just a teenager at the time, performed the role of the butler in Die Fledermaus in Queen’s Hall. “I feel privileged. I played in this same opera at the same venue as a teenager. The first opera I ever did on Queen’s Hall Stage was over 30 years ago when I played the role of the butler; it was a small role. Now I am singing the lead role on the same stage,” Samm said. 

Samm said the CMDFTT has harnessed a lot of good talent. He said opera singers are taken for granted in T&T. “There is a lot of good talent in the company. It’s good fun; it’s a good script it will be a lot of fun. It’s really lovely to be here to help boost the young singers. I believe that there should be more productions like this. There was a time we had people to encourage young performers to make music at a good standard and a lot of people went abroad. There are a lot of good opera singers coming from T&T and we take that for granted. This country is like a talent centre and I think it comes from our carnival background; so I think productions like this are very relevant to help to showcase the talent that is available here,” Samm said. 

The CMDFTT Classical was formed ten years ago in an effort to improve access to training opportunities for musicians, and to promote local classical music performances to increase the visibility of the classical arts, and to create a platform for transferring this knowledge to enrich other forms of musical arts in Trinidad and Tobago. MDFTT promotes and produces high quality classical concerts and master classes, to highlight the vital role and entertainment value of classical music, always endeavouring to support musically gifted individuals to gain the knowledge and training necessary to attain excellence in the performing arts.

Supporting cast members include: Naette Lee, Krista O’Brien, Shanice Harrigin, Christiana Lemessy, Diahann White, Juliette Hadad, Nigel Floyd, Martin Lawrence, Adrian Harrigin and Kendall Joseph. Dancers are Cherysh La Touche, Mavorneen Hamlet, Sade Vilain and Michael Mortley. 

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