Catch a Rising Star and Put her in your Memory Bank

Back in the 1970s, I attended a Yale Rep performance. I cannot remember what I saw. I cannot remember what the show was about. But when I left the theatre, and for weeks afterwards, I could not stop thinking about a certain actress in the play. People were talking about her from the moment the curtain came down, and everyone seemed to agree that this woman had a brilliant future ahead of her.

A few years later, I tuned into a mini series called Holocaust, and there she was. There was that actress who had so filled the audience with collective awe. I remember literally jumping up and down that I had found her again; this actress named Meryl Streep.

The absolute certainty that you have found a burgeoning star is a rare and wonderful thing. You have been given the opportunity to see someone before their name has widely circulated. You have found that needle in the haystack.

In the documentary, I Knew if was You, which is a loving tribute by some of America’s finest actors to the brilliant John Cazalle, with whom Streep had a relationship until his early death to cancer shortly after the filming of Deer Hunter,  Al Pacino speaks of the time when his good friend Cazalle told him he had just seen the most brilliant actress who ever lived. Pacino was certain that Cazalle was overly excited about a woman with whom he was falling in love. Pacino admitted, “Turns out he was right.”

I realize that it is unlikely that I will see another Meryl Streep in my lifetime. But there are stars out there. And at Yale, the Rep is not the only place you can find them.

Stars of the Future/Opera at the Schubert/Cosi Fan Tutte

The Yale Opera Company took over the Schubert Theatre again this past weekend for its production of Cosi Fan Tutte. Having so thoroughly enjoyed its past offerings of Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016) and Marriage of Figaro (2015), I was very excited to see this production. I am also a Mozart junkie. Like the previous operas, it was exceptionally well done. and well attended.

Yale double casts its operas, and I chose to go to the Sunday matinee because  Zachary Johnson played Guglielmo for the Friday and Sunday performances. I have had the pleasure to get to know Zach a bit since I first saw him in scenes performed at Sprague Hall at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, and he also played Snug in Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was performed at the Schubert in 2016.

Zach is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music (my old school) and joined the Masters Degree Program at Yale in the fall of 2015. He has an easy and warm baritone, with exceptionally beautiful high notes, and he is delightful to watch. He has great comedic timing but can pull out drama when needed.  I admit that I was hoping that Yale would use him in a production of The Magic Flute, because I would love to see him as Papageno. Perhaps I will get that chance; if not at Yale, than perhaps in an opera company, for I feel certain that Zach will be snatched up by someone before too long.

Earlier this year, also at Sprague,  I saw Anush Averisyan play Thais in a scene from Thais, and Tatyana in a scene from Eugene Onegin. She is gorgeous; both to look at, and to listen to. I was very excited to see how she would handle a Mozart piece, as I did not get the sense that she would have the fluidity of pull off the arias of Fiordiligi, and I am delighted to say I could not have been more wrong.

When the curtain came down on Cosi, my theatre companion and good friend, Doug, turned to me and said, “She is a star.  She is going to be a huge star.”  And I quite agree. Mind you, I noticed that Doug could not take his eyes off of her when we watched her perform the scene from Thais last fall, so I was not surprised that he loved her in Cosi. But then again, how could one not?

Ms. Avetisyan has it all. She is beautiful, she is smart, and she is a very committed and honest actress. The drama and intensity she brought to the Massenet and Tchaikovsky scenes were as riveting as the comedic timing  and vocal precision she gave us in the Mozart.

The entire production was terrific, although the costumes for Guglielmo and Ferrando when they are playing the Turkish men were a bit silly.  Otherwise however, the show looked great. Natalia Rubis as Despina was hilarious and she sang beautifully as well.

While I certainly hope that all these wonderful singers have brilliant careers, for they certainly deserve it, I intend to pay particular attention to Zach and Anush.  They have that special thing that sets them apart from others, and gets them noticed.

What a joy to watch.