Not an organization to do things half-way, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents the world premiere of THE LAST SORCERER, one hundred fifty-five years in the making, Pauline Garcia Viardot created her masterwork salon opera, Le Dernier Sorcier, written on a libretto by her lover, the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev. The piece is a feminist eco-fable in operatic form which made its original debut in 1867 with author Viardot at the piano in her Baden-Baden villa and her students filling the many colorful roles. For over a century after the initial production, the vocal/piano manuscript was held in a private collection – and then vanished without a trace. A few years ago, the manuscript surfaced and was acquired by Harvard Library, which gave Sing for Hope co-founder Camille Zamora permission to transcribe, publish, and produce it. So here we are, in 2023, with the first presentation of THE LAST SORCERER in this century.
Sing for Hope is The Wallis’ 2022/2023 season company-in-residence; sopranos Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora are the current artists-in-residence. Described as an “arts peace corps,” Sing for Hope promotes the mission of art for all. Most recently, Sing for Hope took donated discarded pianos, turned them into pieces of living art, and placed them in public locations and venues where they would be most appreciated and fulfill their mission of music for all. Sing for Hope has provided more pianos for under-resourced public schools than any other organization in the world. The group has also developed research-based creative performances, workshops, and curated cultural experiences; fostered education through dynamic arts workshops inspiring civic action; and presented programs to uplift youth and local communities. Globally, the organization offers creative advocacy, leadership, and program design as a means for social change. Sing for Hope is the official Cultural Partner of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
THE LAST SORCERER features baritone Babatunde Akinboboye, creator of “Hip Hopera,” in the leading role of the Sorcerer. Yunus appears as the bold young Stella, and Zamora as the majestic fairy queen. Julia Johnson is the dashing Prince Lelio, with Karim Sulayman as Perlimpinpin and Anastasia Malliaras as Verveine. The cast is backed up by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus’s Chamber Singers as the woodland fairies. Actress/activist Monique Coleman serves as narrator. THE LAST SORCERER is directed by Zamora and Sing for Hope director of education Sharyn Pirtle; Lucy Tucker Yates is the musical director.
The back wall of the stage featured artwork by students of Savanna High School in Anaheim, California. The props were created by students of the Sing for Hope Lab in Mount Vernon, New York, and the Bronx, New York City. THE LAST SORCERER is clearly a team effort which reached out to dozens of people across the U.S.
THE LAST SORCERER is a fascinating look at salon opera, a form of music prevalent in the nineteenth century, and gives the audience the opportunity to enjoy the resurrection of a piece which was written 155 years ago. The enthusiastic group of people involved have cobbled together a piece of history for the enjoyment of today’s audience. The costumes were sumptuous and colorful, and the voices were a delight. The tale was fantastic and whimsical.
THE LAST SORCERER performed on Friday, March 3, 3023 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bram Goldsmith Theater, part of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets ranged from $39 to $125. Reservations were offered online.
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