Calisto: Christine Buckstead, soprano
Diana, Jove as Diana: Emily C. Eagen, mezzo-soprano
Endymion: Melanie Kuolt, soprano
Jove: Sam Handley, baritone
Juno: Jennifer Strauss, soprano
Linea: Brandon Brack, tenor
Mercury: Daniel Gallagher, tenor
Pan: Aaron Larson, bass
Satirino: Catherine Brand, mezzo-soprano
David Becker, conductor
The University Opera's production of Cavalli's La Calisto necessarily had to deal with a number of not very developed student singers. However, lavish costumes built by Sydney Krieger, a very pretty set by Nolan C. O'Dell, simple but effective lighting by Jack Kormos, and excellent stage direction by William Farlow combined to make the two-act comedy a considerable success. There was also some pretty good singing and acting, and the small orchestra directed by David Becker provided first-rate support for the lively on-stage action.
The story hinges on the lustful intentions of Jove for an earthly vestal virgin. Jove adopts the deceit of disguising himself as the virgin goddess Diana, in which form he leads the young girl quite astray. The real Diana is also on the scene, herself ardently sought by the shepherd Endymion, and with Juno checking up on her errant husband, confusion runs rampant.
One of the nicest parts of the production, I thought, was the matter-of-fact way in which gender-bending was presented, often with delightfully high camp, for example the aging nymph Linea, very gayly played by Brandon Brack in drag. Emily C. Eagen was commandingly brassy as Diana (real and false) and vocally in fairly good form. To my ears, the best female voice was that of Melanie Kuolt, who played Endymion. Though it's a plummy part, Jennifer Strauss's Juno was not vocally commanding. Christine R. Buckstead's Calisto was a little stronger. In the part of Pan, Aaron Larson displayed a much richer voice than in his previous production, but he is still not at all comfortable in his stage movements. In the part of Mercury, who goads Jove into the cross-dressing scheme, Daniel Gallagher had the opposite problem: good acting, fairly weak singing.
The two standouts were Catherine Brand in the role of the satyr Satirino -- she has great comic talent -- and Sam Handley in the role of Jove. Handley's voice is not huge, but it is even and in good control throughout its range. Most importantly, he brings genuine emotional depth to his characterizations. All in all, musically it was pretty good and theatrically it was very good. Bravo Farlow!
Isthmus, March, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson