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Reviews & Press


La Bohème  |  Mark Satola, Cleveland Plain Dealer


Superb Direction...


Cleveland Opera Theater mounted afirst-rate production of Puccini's chestnut, with a fine cast, superb direction by Scott Skiba, attractive set design by Zachary Zvoboda, marvelous costumes by Esther Haberlen, and a nimble 32-member orchestra that sounded like a much larger ensemble, ably led by Domenico Boyagian.  


Speaking of Act Two, the company's realization of this action-packed street scene was everything an audience might want, complete with chorus, dancers and a fair number of supernumeraries, all brilliantly arrayed in period costume and deployed in phalanxes of movement that very delightfully threatened to overwhelm the stage, especially when the soldiers' parade entered at the act's climax.


After the visual overload of Act Two's street scene, with its children's chorus, dancers and memorable incidental characters all swirling around the Cafe Momus, the spare set of the third act, the gates of Paris in winter, made a strong impression, with its minimal lines and subtle lighting (by Rob Wachala).


An extra note of credit must go to soprano Anelli for her wonderful Act Four performance, in which Mimi expires on a chaise in the attic apartment of Rodolfo and Marcello. Almost entirely horizontal for the scene, Anelli maintained tone and expression throughout the scene, conveying fully the tragedy of her untimely passing.  The rest of the cast, arrayed around the set, also rose to the occasion, with Skiba's direction underscoring the moment of painful confusion before the characters realize that Mimi has slipped into a quiet death.



A Streetcar Named Desire  |  Mark Satola, Cleveland Plain Dealer


Vivid and emotionally charged...


In "Streetcar," whether as an opera or theater piece, the play is, first and always, the thing; and Cleveland Opera Theater was fortunate to have Scott Skiba's stage direction, which was vivid and emotionally charged...the company demonstrated that despite the opera's problems, it can be a powerful and relevant experience, when presented with first-rate stage direction, good singers and a sure baton directing the surging score.    


The characters in "Streetcar" are at once tawdry, complex and terribly sad. Williams treated them all — brutish Stanley, fragile Blanche, serenely enigmatic Stella and naïve Mitch — with great compassion, even when they are doing terrible things, which happens rather frequently.  Skiba, who is Cleveland Opera Theater's artistic director, brought all of this to the fore with great impact.  Our last sight of Blanche, as she is led away to a mental hospital, was freighted with exquisitely painful drama, thanks not only to a brilliant score but also the artistry of all the forces involved in this excellent production.



A Streetcar Named Desire  |  Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Classical


Imaginatively staged...


Imaginatively staged by  Scott Skiba... he deployed his singers efficiently and encouraged realistic interactions among them to the extent that the score allowed.   Act III is so full of action and tension that the show gathered momentum as the story unfolded.  The music of the strange, protracted rape scene in Act III inspired a dreamy frenzy of symbolic activity — a spinning bed with choreographed wrestling and writhing.  



Tosca  |  Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Plain Dealer


The Real Deal...


With its production of Puccini's "Tosca" last weekend, Cleveland Opera Theater the under Scott Skiba proved it has the knowledge and ability to serve as the region's primary operatic source.... strong voices, elegant costumes, and a serious orchestra. This, at last, was the real deal Cleveland has endured so long without.  ...Andrea Anelli, as Tosca, was a powerhouse. No matter her character's motivation – love, rage, heartbreak or triumph – the soprano possessed the vocal tools for the job. To cite only the most famous example, her "Vissi d'arte" aria was as devastating as can be. As an actress, too, Anelli was unusually adept, generating real chemistry with her stage partners and portraying credibly a woman fueled by desperation.  Baritone Brian Keith Johnson was every bit her equal as the corrupt police chief Scarpia. He, too, had no trouble filling the hall, rising above the orchestra, or commanding the stage. Yet he also generated sympathy with singing of great sincerity and sweetness, in stark contrast to the figure he struck.  Tenor Timothy Culver also fared well in his role as the painter Cavaradossi, Tosca's doomed lover... no one could ask for a portrayal or a voice more poignant or lyrical. Especially moving was his silken rendition of "E lucevan le stelle" near the end of Act III.




Tosca  |  Mike Telin, Cleveland Classical 


First Class...


...A first-class production of Puccini’s Tosca in Cleveland Opera Theater's new performing space, the acoustically excellent Masonic Auditorium.  Though COT doesn’t have money to burn at this stage in its ascent, artistic director Scott Skiba staged Tosca just as effectively as companies who can lavish funds on production values.  Skiba’s stage direction was as effective as it was economical. Cavaradossi’s canvas — the painting of the Madonna with the blue eyes that put the dark-eyed Tosca into a jealous rage — was on the “fourth wall” where we never saw her, but could bring our imaginations to bear. He filled the auditorium’s large stage with attractive arrangements of performers in crowd scenes but found ways to concentrate the audience’s attention when only a pair of singers was involved (Scarpia’s split-level apartment allowed for a variety of possibilities).




Clarimonde  |  Mark Satola, The Cleveland Plain Dealer




Cleveland Opera Theater Seduces listeners and celebrated Hallowe'en in an appropriate style at Cleveland Public Theatre, with two performances of the opera Clarimonde by French composer and conductor Frédéric Chaslin, ... ...the production presented the work in a concert performance, with costumes and a modicum of stage movement to enhance the drama. The singers were uniformly outstanding, especially tenor Benjamin Bunsold as Romualdo. With his full tone and fine diction, he fully conveyed his character's anguish as he is torn between faith and desire for the beautiful vampiress. As Clarimonde, soprano Rebecca Freshwater was convincing and moving, bringing out the depth of her character's own inner contradictions.... Scott Skiba's light stage action was just enough to suggest what a fully produced version might be like, and the minimal lighting design was effective without being obtrusive.




The Pirates of Penzance  |  Daniel Hathaway, Cleveland Classical




Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Savoy Operas” ... can be charming and entertaining enough, but when you put such delightful works into the hands of experienced opera singer-actors and a skillful director, something quite extraordinary can happen.  Opera Per Tutti joined forces with the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra to present three performances of William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Seymour Sullivan’s 1879 operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, that took the work to an entirely new level.   Skiba’s canny direction and use of space, together with the intimacy of the 200-seat theater, allowed facial expressions and the smallest of gestures to read clearly to the back row.




La Rondine  |  Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Plain Dealer




...Opera Per Tutti’s staging last weekend at Cleveland Public Theatre was such a joy.  Director Scott Skiba’s production was spare but effective, employing a simple multipurpose structure to convey a parlor, Parisian café, and hotel on the French Riviera. He also filled out the cast with talented, strong singers, notably Alfred Anderson in the bass role of Rambaldo, and dressed them in lavish, historically accurate costumes. His choice to fill out the second act crowd with a duo from Neos Dance Theatre was an inspired one.




La Rondine  |  Mike Telin, Cleveland Classical




... this vocally splendid cast combined with brilliant staging by Scott Skiba and deft coordination between the pit and stage by conductor Domenico Boyagian, Opera Per Tutti certainly made a case for La Rondine to get more face time with audiences.   All stops were pulled out during the second act with the addition of an ensemble of street singers, artists, students, flower girls and dancers. In re-creating Bullier’s Café, Skiba used every inch of space to maximum effect. This was a crowded Parisian café of merrymakers. And the intimate Gordon Square Theatre allowed the audience to feel like they were part of the action as characters developed and ended mini-relationships with one another.




Gianni Schicchi / Suor Angelica  |  Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer




Cleveland Opera Theater performed "Il Tabarro," in a winning production in October 2010 at Cleveland Public Theatre's James Levin Theatre and completed the cycle over the weekend with vibrant accounts of "Schicchi" and "Suor Angelica" at CPT's Gordon Square Theatre.  Skiba's economical staging, focused attention on the interplay of nuns (all sensitively sung) and the confrontation between Angelica and the Princess, her stern aunt… Skiba took full advantage of the set, a series of platforms with white draperies, creating conversation areas for the nuns. As with Schicchi, the cast of Suor Angelica was strong. Skiba made the wise decision to have the [final] chorus sing from the theatre balcony, which added a special feeling of other-worldliness to the opera.  A number of participants in "Suor Angelica" showed up as the ghastly family members in "Schicchi," Puccini's beguiling romp about greed, young love and vengeful ingenuity in 1299 Florence. Skiba had the cast racing about the stage and around the theater with Swiss clock-like precision.




Gianni Schicchi / Suor Angelica |  Mike Telin, Cleveland Classical 


Skiba succeeded beautifully...


…engaging productions of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, skillfully directed by Scott Skiba.  Watching other people’s dysfunctional families unravel before your eyes has been a source of entertainment since, well probably since there have been people. And in opera, while there is plenty of dysfunction to go around, the family of deceased Buoso Donati, could easily rival, if not outdo the Kardashians in their unbridled attempt to secure their share of the family fortune. A fortune which Buoso Donati has left to the monastery.  What’s a family to do except change the will. Enter Gianni Schicchi and let the mayhem begin. And keeping the mayhem under control is where director Skiba succeeded beautifully. While there was plenty of running around on the stage and throughout the theatre, the characters never stepped on one another physically or vocally.





Fiesta  {Devised Work}Daniel Hathaway, Cleveland Classical 


Brilliantly executed....


Lyric evenings built around a theme and leavened with instrumental solos can be evocative and fulfilling, and OPT’s Fiesta was well planed and brilliantly executed, drawing on the music of Spanish, Cataluñian, Brazilian and Argentine composers and Iberian –inspired works from Bizet and Delibes.





Marguerite {World Premiere adaptation of Gounod's Faust}  | Daniel Hathaway, Cleveland Classical 




At Cleveland Public Theater on Sunday, Cleveland Opera Theater debuted its Marguerite, a version of Faust devised by general manager and primo soprano Andrea Anelli and director Scott Skiba that came in at just around two and a half hours and shifted the focus of the opera from Gounod's title character to his debauched and maligned mistress.  Marguerite proved to be an engaging afternoon of theater, the moreso because of its intimacy. Marguerite enveloped the goodsized audience in warm, passionate singing and playing. Every pianissimo nuance was clearly heard, and high notes had stunning resonance.  Cleveland Opera Theater fielded a strong cast. Andrea Anelli was in fine vocal fettle and created a Marguerite one could really care about.




Marguerite   | Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer 


Elegance... Sensitivity... Vitality...


Cleveland Public Theatre’s Gordon Square Theatre wasn’t built a century ago to house opera, but don’t tell Cleveland Opera Theater. The small Cleveland opera company squeezed one of the grandest operas of them all, Gounod’s “Faust,” into the space Friday with little difficulty. This was hardly “Faust” as opera audiences have known it, more or less, since 1859. Cleveland Opera Theater went back to the work’s operacomique roots (complete with dialogue), cut big chunks out of the score and renamed the piece “Marguerite” to focus on the hapless heroine. Whatever the changes or title, Cleveland Opera Theater performed its miniature version of “Faust” with elegance, sensitivity and sometimes earfilling vitality.   The placement of the robust Summit County Chorale Masterworks was especially effective in the Soldier’s Chorus and in the final stirring hymn of the angels as Marguerite is saved from damnation. Skiba's set and simple staging allowed the characters to be the center of attention.  




Il Segretto di Susana |  Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer 


Great Fun...



Cleveland Opera Theater built a stylish set – a drawing room complete with lavish furniture. In Scott Skiba’s nimble staging, the three cast members made their way easily, and often friskily, around one another.  Cleveland Opera Theater  approached the work as if it were a comic masterpiece. The performance Friday was great fun, especially when Benjamin Czarnota was huffing and puffing (not literally) as the jealous Count and Anelli was plotting Susanna’s nicotine fixes while sending her poignant lyric soprano into space.





Il Tabarro  |


Skiba worked wonders...


Director Scott Skiba worked wonders with the small stage area…when a production is as well-acted and well-sung as this one, the emotional content and meaning of the words is readily apparent—even more proof that bigger is not always better!  Cleveland Opera Theater, which specializes in smaller intimate productions proved to be the perfect partner for CPT and it is to be hoped this will be a long, happy—and successful—relationship. 




Il Tabarro  |  Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer 


Opera with distinction...


Scott Skiba's staging clarified relationships between principals and choristers, who often were seen in silhouette on an upstage platform…… the intensity was right for Puccini's tale of adultery, loss and revenge.  With its full-scale production of Puccini's "Il Tabarro" at Cleveland Public Theatre, [Cleveland Opera Theater] gave notice that it treats opera with distinction.




Die Fledermaus | Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer 




You can almost feel the bubbles shooting every which way from “Die Fledermaus…Scott Skiba's staging neatly defines the comedic entanglements and the designs are traditional and colorful…The Opera Circle cast appeared to enjoy every delectable turn of phrase.




I Pagliacci  |




Mr. Skiba found and brought out a variety of subtle nuances in his staging of the opera on the somewhat smallish stage at Solon Center for the Arts. There was a good-sized orchestra behind the set, and a large chorus in front of it, plus the principals, and he utilized every inch of space in magnificent fashion.



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