Now in its fifth season, OperaHub has graced Greater Boston with productions ranging from the sublime (Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea”) to the blissfully ridiculous (a German-art-song cabaret called “Goethe Your Hand off My Heine”). The company has “remixed” Mozart’s “Bastien und Bastienne”; it’s done show tunes on Nantucket; it’s given life to rarely performed works like Viktor Ullmann’s “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” and Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg.” What’s left?
How about a cappella opera? This weekend, OperaHub is presenting the East Coast premiere of Michael Ching’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Is Shakespeare and doo-wop a match made in heaven? At Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre Thursday, it was good enough for at least a first date.
Ching’s opera, which premiered in Memphis in January 2011, does have an orchestra of sorts — what he calls a “voicestra,” 14 vocalists who ground the soloists in harmony and rhythm, and whose number includes a “vocal percussionist” (here J.J. Lee). This “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a kind of “popera” — appropriate for a play about puppy love and spoiled royals. Ching’s vocal lines are mostly recitative and don’t vary much from character to character. And despite the muted volume level of the voicestra, much of the Bard’s text doesn’t come through.
But OperaHub puts Ching’s moderately engaging work across with high spirits, unflagging energy, and beachballs. Stephen K. Dobay’s set is a mottled green platform decorated with tree branches; the beachballs start out on the seats, the audience being directed to hurl them into the playing area to signal the transition to the fairy world. Lysander (Joel Buford) and Demetrius (Adrian Jones) wear matching outfits, as they should; so do Hermia (DeAnna Choi) and Helena (Brittany Duncan). Jared Levin and Tamara Ryan make a fetching pair both as Theseus and Hippolyta and as Oberon and Titania. The singing is good, but the acting is better; Duncan and Ryan are particularly animated.
All tickets to the remaining performances have been reserved. Unclaimed tickets will be released 10 minutes before showtime, and those who arrive early can place their names on a waiting list.Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.