New Frontiers for Community Opera: “The ZOOMpresario”

Presented by Opera Del West
Based on The Impresario, A Comic Opera in one Act 
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
German text by Gottlieb Stephanie, Jr.
Additional English text and lyrics by Dan Shore
Video, stage direction by Brenda Huggins
Music direction by Eve K Budnick
Video engineering by Larry Budnick

Debuted to the internet on July 3, 2020
Available now on Youtube at https://youtu.be/4oEc6a8ORhs
Opera Del West on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM — Based purely on the self-deprecating tones of Music Director Eve Budnick and Lyricist Dan Shore during the performance’s live pre-show, I was expecting The ZOOMpresario to be of poor quality and unenjoyable. I was happy to be wrong. 

Both Budnick and Shore discussed the abundance with great confidence about their inexperience with virtual software and video. This is the antithesis of how artists are taught to present themselves. They could have been impressing us with their performers’ adaptability in the times of quarantine. They could have been discussing how they molded Mozart’s one-act opera to modern times. Instead, we were lead to believe that The ZOOMpresario’s creators weren’t suited to their task by their own words. 

Their self-castigation wasn’t cute. It was misleading. An artist’s job is to fake it until they make it. Don’t tell us your weaknesses. Let us decide by watching.

The ZOOMpresario was fine as far as home recordings go. Direction by Brenda Huggins showed off the acting skills of the vocalists. Huggins tailored her work to the vocalists’  strengths. Théodora Cottarel as Henrietta Heartfelt toyed with the camera frame to great comedic effect. Her interpretation of the aria was fine but it was Huggins’ staging that made the aria as funny as it was. 

The same can be said for Aurora Martin’s prop work as Cecily Silvertone. Martin sang well but Huggins’ direction to use a mop and cap gave Martin’s aria its edge. It does justice to Shore’s libretto updates and reflects the necessary adaptation to modern technology’s advances. In order to survive, community corona-opera will absolutely need to drag itself into civilized times. 

Theatres looking for a video editor should look up Larry Budnick. His work as video engineer on the ZOOMpresario is accessible to the modern audience and interesting to the eye. It considers the informed Zoom user’s experiences and introduces new viewers to video’s operatic potential. 

Diction in this recording was muddy. This is not the fault of the vocalists and more an issue inherent in the software. Zoom and other such programs aren’t intended to capture operatic performance. Hollywood productions factor dubbing costs into their budgets even with fancy recording equipment at their fingertips. Snobs looking to point fingers can point them at the inventors of Zoom. 

The ZOOMpresario is incredibly white, from original creators to cast to creative crew. Joel Edwards, Jr. sings beautifully as Maestro Buskin. He is the only Black person involved at any level in the recording. It’s 2020 and opera still has a severe whiteness problem. 

Cast:
Rosie Buskin: Roselin Osser
Maestro Buskin: Joel Edwards
Madam Heartfelt: Theodora Cottarel
Madamoiselle Silvertone: Aurora Martin

Mini-orchestra: 
Flute – Susan Caplan
Clarinet – Ryan Budnick
Piano – Eve Kochen Budnick

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