Saturday, July 30, 2016

Touring Allegheny Observatory

Allegheny Observatory Credit: Bill Rockwell
I’ve lived in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 30 years, and, though I’ve visited many of the area attractions and landmarks, I’d overlooked and missed the Allegheny Observatory. Somehow, it slipped off my radar until a visit to Brownsville reminded me that John Brashear, one of the observatory’s early directors, was from that Mon River town.

Surfing the site’s website on the Internet, I discovered that public tours of the observatory are offered twice a week, on Thursday and Friday evenings, April through the end of October. A quick phone call later, I made a reservation for one of the public tours.

Located in Riverview Park just four miles north of Downtown Pittsburgh, the observatory is actually a part of the University of Pittsburgh, located eight miles away in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. My 8 p.m. Thursday evening tour took me to a part of the city I’d never before visited, and I was impressed by the large size of Riverview Park and the attractiveness of the surrounding neighborhood.

The observatory dates back to February 15, 1859 when a group of prominent industrialists from Allegheny City (now a part of Pittsburgh) formed the Allegheny Telescope Association (ATA). The group got interested in astronomy the previous year with the arrival of the Great Comet of 1858, also known as Donati’s Comet. The bright object, the first comet ever to be photographed, got the attention of the world, so much so that sales of telescopes and binoculars skyrocketed worldwide.

The ATA joined in on the astronomical craze, purchased a 13-inch refracting telescope and made its first skyward gaze with the new instrument on November 27, 1861. From the start the group decided to use the telescope for entertaining its members and for public education rather than for research.

By 1867, interest among the members had waned, and the group decided to donate the facility to the Western University of Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh. Following the appointment of Samuel Pierpont Langley as its first director, the observatory began studying sun spots. Langley also used a new transit telescope to accurately measure time and began servicing, for a fee, railroads who were in desperate need for uniform time over the web of rails that then crisscrossed the nation.

At noon on November 18, 1883, the first day railroad standard time took effect in North America, the observatory sent a telegraph signal to railroads across the continent, which synchronized their schedules to the signal.

Langley also experimented with heavier-than-air craft on the grounds in front of the first observatory, built ¾ of a mile down the hill from the current observatory in Riverview Park. After assuming the post of secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in 1888, Langley continued his aviation work in the nation’s capital.

His renown in scientific circles eventually led to naming numerous structures and places after him both in Pittsburgh and the capital region. Today, a hall at the University of Pittsburgh and a Pittsburgh high school as well as a mountain in the Sierra Nevada and an Air Force base in Virginia all bear his name.

On my tour of the observatory, which began with a detailed talk by Eric Canali in the lecture hall, the audience learned about other scientific giants who served as observatory director. These included James Keeler, whose observations of the rings of Saturn proved they were particulate rather than solid, as was believed at that time, and John Brashear, whose company made the lenses for two of the observatory’s main telescopes.

Tour Guide Eric Canali Discusses Thaw 30-Inch Telescope
Credit: Bill Rockwell

Following the lecture, we were led to a rotunda where bronze statue of the seated Brashear is sited next to a large stained glass window of Urania, the muse of astronomy. The flight up a steep set of stairs led to a space under the site’s largest dome, dominated by a Thaw 30-inch refractor. Forty-seven feet long with a moving mass of 8,000 pounds, the Thaw was designed and built by the Brashear Company for photographic use. From its start in 1914, the observatory photographic program has amassed more than 110,000 exposures on glass plates, making it one of the oldest and largest collections of its kind in the world.

Under the dome, Canali demonstrated how the telescope is moved to focus on a particular object in the cosmos. Surprisingly, the floor underneath the telescope also conveniently lowers and rises mechanically, a demonstration of which is included on the tour. I won’t spoil your tour experience by giving you the answer why the floor moves upward and down.

Further on, after entering the smallest dome, tour-goers get a look at the 13-inch Fitz-Clark Refractor, constructed in 1861.One interesting anecdote heard on the tour is the story of the theft of the telescope lens, held for ransom by the perpetrator in 1872. Langley refused to pay the blackmail money, and the identity of the lens-napper has never been discovered. The lens however, was recovered from a waste paper basket in a hotel in Beaver Falls.

Scratched and useless, the lens was reground, and, when reinstalled, proved to have better clarity than the original. On clear nights, tour-takers get to see whatever celestial objects are in range of the telescope.

The tour ends on an eerie note in the basement crypt where the ashes of James Keeler and John Brashear and his wife, Phoebe, are interned under the pier of one of the telescopes Brashear’s company produced.

The cornerstone for the current tan brick and white terra cotta observatory complex was laid in 1900, and the building was completed in 1912. Current research work is focusing on detection of extrasolar planets using photometry to measure the brightness of stars  as a way to discover orbiting planets.

The Allegheny Observatory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Pennsylvania state and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation historic landmark.

Tours of the Observatory, located at 159 Riverview Avenue in Pittsburgh, are offered at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays from April through late October. The tours are free of charge, but reservations are required by phoning 412-321-2400 between 1 and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Every third Friday of the month (except December) the Observatory offers a public lecture beginning at 7 p.m. with free refreshments. The one-hour long lectures begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by a tour  An open house, free to the public, is also scheduled for Friday, October 7. Reservations can be made starting at 9 a.m. on Monday, August 1. . For more information, phone 412-321-2400 or visit website

Hog’s Head Bar and Grill
Outside the Hog's Head Credit: Bill Rockwell
Wanting to find a place for a bite to eat before my tour, I used the Internet and discovered that the Hog’s Head Bar and Grill is the most proximate place to the observatory to dine. My drive to the eatery along Spring Garden Avenue was a first for me, and the restaurant visit proved a pleasant surprise. I arrived on a Thursday evening, Hog Bowl Night, where you can get 15 wings for $6 and $2 Miller Lite drafts.

The place was packed, and I strayed from the busy restaurant side to the more subdued bar area. Beside offering nine beers on tap, Hog’s Head also offers 27 craft/imports by the bottle. The menu describes six ways to have fresh cut fries, nine ways to order a Black Angus burger and also lists a slew of salads. The pizza also gets high marks from Yelp reviewers, but there’s also appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, wraps, hoagies and steaks to choose from.

Blackened Bleu Buffalo Shrimp Credit: Bill Rockwell

My own selections included a wonderful mussels appetizer in garlic, white wine and butter sauce topped with Parmesan and bleu cheeses ($9.99) while my companion chose a Blackened Bleu Buffalo Shrimp  - the name says it all ($8.99). Our entrees included a big portioned Salmon Salad, done to your choice of plain, Cajun, Teriyaki  or blackened ($10.99) and a Shrimp Scampi tossed over linguini in a butter and white wine cream sauce ($12.99).

If you’re wondering where the restaurant, formerly the Pig Bar, gets its name, I was told that hog farmers once drove their stock down Spring Garden Avenue to the now defunct slaughterhouse on Herr’s Island in the Allegheny. In synch with its name and history, the restaurant displays numerous hog themed signs, posters and artifacts throughout the building.
Bronze Pig on the Bar Credit: Bill Rockwell

The Hog’s Head Bar and Grill, located at 3433 Spring Garden Avenue in Reserve Township, features specials almost every day of the week and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Phone 412-251-0439 or visit website

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Patricia Wilde to be Inducted into National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame

Former Pittsburgh Ballet Theater Artictic Director, Patricia Wilde Credit: Gene Puskar

Starting around 1985, I only got to meet Patricia Wilde in person a couple of times, but saw her from a distance on several occasions during visits to a ballet performance. Over the years, as I learned more about her stunning career, my admiration for her both as a dancer and an arts administrator grew. Yesterday, I was thrilled to learn that her talents and abilities are being recognized by an important arts organization.

Joining dance visionaries like George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) Artistic Director Patricia Wilde will become the National Museum of Dance’s 56th Hall of Fame inductee next month. The museum will formally induct her into the Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame at its annual gala, Aug. 13, in Saratoga Springs, New York. As part of the honor, the museum will curate an exhibit showcasing her more than 50-year career in dance.

From photos to a past pair of pointe shoes, Wilde’s daughter Anya Davis helped her mother gather and send memorabilia to Saratoga for the exhibition. Davis will join Wilde in Saratoga for the Hall of Fame induction, along with Wilde’s son, Youri Bardyguine, and her two grandsons, Nicholas and Alexei Bardyguine.

Patricia Wilde Credit: Gene Puskar
A former New York City Ballet (NYCB) principal dancer, Wilde led Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for 15 years and still resides in Pittsburgh today.

At age 88, Wilde remains deeply connected to the ballet field. Just this summer, author Joel Lobenthal released the first biography on her career: “Wilde Times: Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine, and the Rise of New York City Ballet.” The Library Journal wrote, "This first biography of the performer presents a window into the world of Balanchine at an important time in dance history."

As the 56th Hall of Fame inductee, Wilde will join Balanchine, and a diverse group of influential artists, including Martha Graham, Igor Stravinsky, Jerome Robbins, Edward Villella, Arthur Mitchell, Jacques d’Amboise, as well as 2015 honorees, Rudolf Nureyev and Mark Morris.

“Patricia Wilde is a true force.  Onstage, she had this captivating presence and a speed and purity to her dancing that was something special,” said Terrence S. Orr, PBT artistic director. “She brought that incredible sensibility to Pittsburgh and really helped put Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre on the map. She continues to drop in to watch rehearsal and catch up with the company. We are incredibly proud to see her honored in the National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame.”

Wilde launched her ballet career at age 14 with Marquis de Cuevas Ballet International, went on to dance with the famous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and joined New York City Ballet in 1950 – just two years after its founding. During her 15 years a principal dancer at NYCB, Wilde worked extensively with its choreographer and co-founder George Balanchine, who created nearly 20 roles for her in ballets including “Scotch Symphony,” “Raymonda Variations,” “La Valse” and “Square Dance.”

After retiring from the stage, Wilde directed the Harkness House of Ballet in New York, helped Balanchine establish the school for the Grand Theatre of Geneva, served as ballet mistress for American Ballet Theatre and as director of the American Ballet Theatre School. She led PBT as artistic director from 1982 to 1997.

Wilde passed on the iconic Balanchine technique to another generation of dancers. She worked to diversify PBT’s repertoire, introducing Balanchine classics and commissioning new works from emerging choreographer.
In 2013, she received a Dance Magazine Award “for her invaluable work as an educator, dancer and director.”

Patricia Wilde in Class Credit: Susan Cook
 About the National Museum of Dance

Founded in 1986, the National Museum of Dance is the only museum in this country dedicated entirely to the art of dance. The museum welcomes over 10,000 visitors annually, presents several engaging exhibitions each year, and offers a wide range of live performances including opera, musicals, and theatrical works. The National Museum of Dance is located in Saratoga Spa State Park in New York and is deeply connected to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The School of the Arts is one of the leading not-for-profit dance schools in New York State, serving students of all ages and abilities, with a strong focus on technique and artistic development.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Elton John's Aida Debuts at CLO

Kat Geersten, Kyle McClellan, Erik Hernandez, Zakiya Young & Ximone Rose in Musical Theatre Wichita’s Elton John;s Aida  Credit: Christopher Clark

A gripping tragedy of love that transcends all, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA follows a courageous Nubian princess as she is forced to choose between passion and allegiance.  This poignant musical features HAMILTON’s own Emmy Raver-Lampman as Aida and Broadway’s Mark Evans as Radames.

Plot Synopsis: Two strangers peruse a museum exhibit and are suddenly transported to Ancient Egypt where they meet as Aida, an enslaved Nubian princess, and Radames, an Egyptian soldier betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Radames and Aida’s forbidden love becomes a shining example of true devotion that ultimately transcends the cultural differences between their warring nations, heralding a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

As their epic story draws to a close, our pair of strangers resume their visit to the museum where they find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. The unforgettable Grammy Award-winning score by Elton John and Tim Rice features soaring ballads including Billboard hit “Written in the Stars.”


Kathryn Boswell (Amneris) is making her Pittsburgh CLO debut. Most recent credits: Gigi (Broadway, Kennedy Center), First Daughter Suite (Sundance Institute), Play it by Heart (Human Race Theatre Company) and Les Misérables (Music Theatre of Wichita). TV: High Maintenance (HBO).

Mark Evans (Radames) is also joining Pittsburgh CLO for the first time. U.S: The Fix - Signature Theatre, The Book Of Mormon - First National Tour (2014 Helen Hayes nom.). West End: Ghost The Musical, Wicked, High School Musical and Spamalot. U.K./Regional Tours: Oklahoma!, The Rocky Horror Show, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and Cinderella. TV/Film: The Tower Of Silence, Dead Hungry, Lake Placid 3 and Eurovision Your Country Needs You. Workshops: Anastasia. Concert: Ultimate Broadway (Shanghai), Chess In Concert (Royal Albert Hall). Recording: “The Journey Home & The Journey Home Deluxe Edition” (solo albums). Author: Secrets Of Stage Success.

Zakiya Young and Andrew Samonsky  in Music Theatre Wichita;s Elton John;s Aida Credit: Christopher Clark  
Monteze Freeland (Amonasro) has worked with the Arena Players, The Pittsburgh Playhouse, Kuntu Rep (Radio Golf), Pittsburgh Playwrights (The Piano Lesson), City Theatre, Quantum Theatre (The Electric Baby) and many more in the Pittsburgh region. He is also the Artistic Director of The LAB Project. Freeland is a new member of Actors’ Equity.

Jeffrey Howell (Pharaoh) returns to Pittsburgh CLO after appearing in shows such as: Damn Yankees, Man of La Mancha, 42nd Street, Singin’ in the Rain, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jekyll and Hyde, A Musical Christmas Carol (Bob Cratchit), Beauty and the Beast, Bells are Ringing, Pajama Game and The Most Happy Fella.  He was also seen at the REP in Choir Boy and Souvenir. Other credits include Candide, Tigers Be Still, Chicago and Tribute to Lerner and Loewe with Marvin Hamlisch and the PSO.

Fred Inkley (Zoser) joins Pittsburgh CLO again after appearing in Les Misérables (Valjean).  Broadway: Les Misérables (Valjean), Annie (Drake, FDR, Bert Healy), The Addams Family (Lurch, Mal Beineke), Company, Lincoln Center (Vocal Minority), A Tale of Two Cities (Stryver), The Boys from Syracuse (Sergeant),The Nutty Professor (Murray and Maury) and Birdland. Tour: The Little Mermaid (King Triton), Beauty and the Beast (Beast) and Les Misérables (Valjean). Regional: Ever After (Auguste), Paper Mill Playhouse, Les Misérables (Valjean), North Shore Music Theater, Pittsburgh CLO, Jekyll and Hyde (Jekyll, Hyde), Ritz Theater, Boston Pops Guest Artist. He is a member of Actors’ Equity. 

Emmy Raver-Lampman (Aida) appears with Pittsburgh CLO for the first time. Broadway credits include: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast), A Night With Janis Joplin (Original Broadway Cast), Jekyll & Hyde and Hair. National Tour: Wicked (Elphaba standby). Other Favorites: The SpongeBob Musical (Pre-Broadway Chicago Production), Children of Eden (APAC).  She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College.

Lamont Walker II (Mereb) is currently a senior at Point Park University pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre. Other Credits include: Bill Hanney's Theatre by the Sea's West Side Story and The Buddy Holly Story; A Lesson Before Dying (Jefferson) with Primestage, Choir Boy (AJ) with The Pittsburgh REP, Pittsburgh Playwrights, and others.

Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is complete with a talented ensemble, including Cameron Amandus, Christopher Campbell, Ryan Cavanaugh, Gerald Caesar, Ixchel Cuellar, Mike Greer, Mya’la Herrold,  Justin Lonesome, Carina-Kay Louchiey, Billy Mason, Mara Newbery, JJ Niemann, Emily Nies, Kate Margalite, Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, Taylor Kellas Warren and Ross Yoder.


Barry Ivan (Director & Choreographer) has directed numerous productions for Pittsburgh CLO including The Wedding Singer, Sunset Boulevard, Company, A Little Night Music, Footloose, The Full Monty, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Les Misérables. National and international credits range from directing at the German State Opera to directing at Yale. His productions of The Full Monty and Hairspray received IRNE awards for Best Musical and he received IRNE nominations as Best Director for Nine and Les Misérables. Mr. Ivan directed the US premiere of Dracula, A Chamber Musical and is slated to direct the world premiere of Jeff Stolzer’s comedy-drama Power Plays. Mr. Ivan is currently producing and developing multiple projects for the stage and television.

Tom Helm (Music Director) returns for his 21st season with Pittsburgh CLO. His theater credits include the Broadway productions of Souvenir, Les Misérables, Me and My Girl, CATS and Brigadoon. He has also contributed his talents to television programs such as Crazy For You and the Today Show. Mr. Helm has conducted at Radio City Music Hall, Paper Mill Playhouse and many other regional and national theaters.


With stirring music and an eloquent book, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA follows the same story of conflict and timeless love chronicled in the 19th century opera of the same name by Giuseppe Verdi.
The musical first astounded audiences with its Broadway premiere in March of 2000.  The production continued to inspire New York audiences until 2004 when it closed after nearly 2,000 performances.  
Following its Broadway run, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA hit the road with multiple National Tours, international productions and regional theater performances across the country.

It won four Tony Awards® including Best Original Score and a Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album. Contemporary musical legend and composer Elton John recorded the musical’s showstopper “Written in the Stars” with LeAnn Rimes, which topped the Billboard adult contemporary music charts.


Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang (Book) wrote the book for Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA. The creative team collaborated in the midst of successful individual careers.  Woolverton’s notable credits include script-writing for Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, which received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Picture.  She also co-wrote the script for Disney’s The Lion King and Homeword Bound: The Incredible Journey.   

Robert Falls is a Broadway director and writer whose work includes Death of a Salesman, The Speed of Darkness and Chinglish, among many others.  Falls has won the Tony Regional Theatre Award and a Tony for Best Direction for Death of a Salesman. David Henry Hwang is a critically acclaimed playwright and opera librettist best known for writing M. Butterfly, for which he won a Tony Award®, Drama Desk™ Award and Outer Critics Circle™ Award. Other notable credits include Disney’s Tarzan, Golden Child, Yellow Face, Chinglish, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, An American Soldier and Dream of the Red Chamber.

Elton John (Music) is the musical genius behind Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA, among many of today’s contemporary classics and biggest hits.  He has earned 38 gold and 27 platinum or multi-platinum albums, sold more than 250 million records and holds the record for largest selling single of all time. He has toured the world since 1969 with the Elton John band. John’s compositions for 1994 Disney animation film The Lion King won an Academy Award® for Best Original Song.  In 1998, he composed for The Lion King on Broadway which won six Tonys. In 2000 he won the Tony Award® for Best Original Score for AIDA. John also wrote for Billy Elliot the Musical, which won the 2005 Olivier Award for Best Musical.  Additionally, John has earned five Grammy® Awards.

Tim Rice (Lyrics) is one of the most accomplished lyricists and librettists of today.  His work spans multiple genres, decades and has been recognized with a myriad of awards.  His collaborative work with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Jesus Christ Superstar earned him international fame as well as a Tony nomination for Best Original Score. 

The pair again achieved greatness with Broadway hit Evita which won a Tony Award® for Best Book of a Musical. In 1982, Rice’s contributions to Broadway sensation Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat garnered Tony nominations for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. Following Joseph, Rice lent his talents to Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast. Subsequently, he worked on Blondel and Chess. 

Rice collaborated with Elton John for the Disney movie and later stage adaptation of The Lion King. He also wrote for the Disney animated film Aladdin, which also appeared on Broadway and earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score. Additionally, Rice has won three Academy Awards®, three Golden Globes® and a Grammy®.

Performance Schedule for Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA

Tuesday, July 26 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 27 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 28 8 p.m.
Friday, July 29 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 30  2 p.m. and  8 p.m.
Sunday, July 312 p.m. and 7 p.m.


Tickets are available online at, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square. Tickets start at $25. Groups of 10 or more enjoy exclusive discounts and specialty packages. Call our Group Sales Hotline at 412-325-1582 for more information. Visit for further information.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summerfest in Final Week

Returning SummerFest stars (l-r, above) Julia Fox, Dimitrie Lazich, and Jeremy Galyon, all back for the third production in Summerfest's  cycle of works by 20th century master Richard Strauss. 

As the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's Summerfest winds down, it fills this weekend with two brilliant works - Strauss' "The Silent Woman" at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 24 and Handel's Julius Caesar" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at the Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. For tickets, phone 412-326-9687 or visit website

In The Silent Woman, an old curmudgeon gets what he deserves: a diva with glass-shattering high C's! Richard Strauss serves up an opera-within-an opera with some of the most glorious music ever written, to a libretto by Stefan Zweig, who provided the inspiration for the hit film The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Based on a play by Ben Jonson, The Silent Woman follows Summerfest's  acclaimed productions of Adriane on Naxos (2014) and Capriccio (2015). 

About Julia Fox

Known for delivering an “excellent performance” (Gramophone) “with dazzling effect” (Pittsburgh Stage Review), soprano Julia Fox shines in opera, concert, chamber, and new music. This season Ms. Fox returns to Opera Theater Pittsburgh as the title character in The Silent Woman after performing in the SummerFest productions of Damn Yankees and Capriccio last season. Below, Fox conducts a Q & A with Summerfest's Hanna Shea. marketing intern

Q: How do you identify with your role(s) this season?
A: I feel many points of commonality with Aminta. Personality-wise, I feel we share some traits: she is very earnest, sincerely wanting what is right and what is best, above her own desires; she is genuinely modest and good-hearted, but also clever and capable; and she has deep capacity for warmth and affection. Situationally, I can also relate: she is part of an opera troupe, and I have just finished a 5-month tour with one; she is a capable actress, willing and able to play the part as needed, even if it feels far from her true or best nature. We are separated in many ways—the period and place Stefan Zweig used for the setting is quite different from 21st-century Texas, being married and tricking someone into ‘marrying’ are both things I’ve never experienced, and she is, after all, fictional while I am real—yet I feel a strong partnership with Aminta, her outlook, her reactions, and her experiences. I’m looking forward to learning much from this amazing woman throughout the opera production process!

Q: What has been your favorite role that you’ve gotten to perform and why?
A: This is always a tricky one for me—I’m almost always in love with whatever role I’m working on, which also means I can look back at all of the roles I’ve done and remember why I loved them deeply. So, I usually pick one arbitrarily and then explain part of why I loved it… One favorite role was my recent portrayal of Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. General reasons to love: historical significance of the piece in how western classical music unfolded, the powerful nature of playing a goddess. But this particular production gave me additional reasons to love: the director’s vision required me to confront one of my deepest fears—heights/falling—and make my entrance being rolled out atop a fourteen-foot pedestal on wheels, sans railing, singing and gesturing dramatically while remaining balanced and poised with a twenty-pound wing-pack saddled to my back. I learned about teamwork, trust, the goals and demands of high art. But most importantly I learned to dig deep. And it was amazing! #worthit.

Q: Do you have any dream roles? What are they and why would you like to perform them?
A: I dream of getting to sing a juicy bel canto role, perhaps Amina or Lucia…

A: You performed in SummerFest’s Capriccio production last season and will appear as Aminta in Strauss' The Silent Woman this season as well - do you find that it’s been easy or difficult to connect with Strauss characters, more so than other roles?
A: Strauss gives you so much to work with because he really develops the emotional life of the character via the musical material. This, however, does not make it particularly ‘easy’ or automatic, because his rich musical material demands the devotion to discover and unlock and incorporate said emotional content, which is a process. But, as we are wont to say these days, #worthit.

Q: What are you most excited for this SummerFest season?
A: What am I not excited for this season? The line-up of repertoire is exciting, the new venue is exciting, the role I’m singing is exciting, being in the amazing Pittsburgh is exciting, working with this company that I love is exciting! But, most of all, I must say I am excited for the people. Opera connects people, SummerFest especially—hosts, colleagues, administrators, Pittsburghers, directors, carpenters, choreographers, out-of-towners, volunteers, stage managers, conductors, board members, artists, roommates. You never know who you are going to meet or how meaningfully you might connect, but there is a genuine sense of camaraderie and family that I look forward to experiencing.

Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for a role?
A: You never know what a director has in mind or what a character will get to do! Once as Cinderella in a modern opera I had to “slip” on a rigged sponge and “fall” into the splits while singing a high C#... Stuffing my face with a huge slice of chocolate cake and a whole bottle of “wine” (colored water) as Italian Singer in Capriccio last summer was also strange (how am I going to be able to sing??) but fun!

Q:What got you interested in opera?
A: An initial interest in “operatic” expression was nurtured in me through a cassette tape of Phantom of the Opera in my kindergarten class’s listening station. (I know...) I didn’t experience real opera until I was 15 and got to see Laura Claycomb perform Gilda (Rigoletto) at Houston Grand Opera. She floated a glorious pianissimo high E at the end of “Caro nome”, and it blew me away that the human voice could contain such beauty and heartache. I was hooked.

Q: What was your first opera experience like? (in the audience and on stage)
A: My first opera experience in the audience was painful: Thwarted by my over-eager excitement, I rushed to the school bus for our middle school field trip to see Madame Butterfly, but I tripped and fell flat on my face and had to spend the day getting x-rays and recuperating—my dad rented a video of the Puccini for me to watch instead, but it wasn’t the same.

My first stage experience in opera was traumatic: As a forest animal and gingerbread kid in Hänsel und Gretel at the Shepherd School of Music, we children were watching from the wings when there was an accident and the Witch got injured onstage, but then we had to go on singing the finale even while lights and sirens from the ambulance were going at the stage door! The Witch was okay, but I got an early lesson in the concept that “the show must go on”!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dolly Madison to Visit Friendship Hill

"Albert Gallatin" Standing Outside His Home at Friendship Hill Credit: NPS

As part of  its 100 year anniversary, the National Park Service will host the Fourth Annual Albert Gallatin Project Saturday, July 23 and 24, 2016.  The two-day symposium, Mrs. Madison Comes to Visit, will focus on the events of 1816 as Albert Gallatin prepares to return to Europe as Minister to France.  Attendees will enjoy a day of historically based conversation and interpretation.

This year Mrs. Dolley Madison pays a social call on Mr. Albert Gallatin as she travels through Pennsylvania and parts north to visit various friends.  On her arrival, she learns that her dear friend, Mrs. Hannah Gallatin has already left for New York.

Mr. Gallatin is preparing Friendship Hill for the family’s absence before the Gallatins leave for Paris. Although Mrs. Gallatin is absent, Mrs. Madison will cheerfully share with Mr. Gallatin the events in Washington City, and the plans she and the President are making for returning to private life at the end of his term in office.

Ever the gracious hostess, Mrs. Madison will be found helping Mr. Gallatin entertain friends and neighbors who come to visit and wish him well in his new duties.

Saturday morning activities will begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 3:00 p.m. with a break for lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m.  Sunday will find Mrs. Madison and Mr. Gallatin entertaining visitors from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  You are encouraged to bring a lunch with you on Saturday if you plan to spend the whole day. Food is also available in nearby Point Marion, Masontown, and Smithfield.  Cool beverages will be available at the site.
Patgricia Sowers as Dolly Madison Credit: NPS
Mrs. Patricia Sowers of Alexandria, Virginia portrays Mrs. Dolley Madison.  Sowers is Dolley Madison for Dumbarton House in Washington, DC.  She is the current Camp Coordinator for the Society of Cincinnati Secretary at Anderson House in Washington, DC. \

Ronald Duquette, Maj. USA, Ret. portrays Albert Gallatin. Returning to the Gallatin Project at Friendship Hill for the fourth time, Duquette has also appeared as Gallatin at Bradford House, the Swiss Embassy, and NYU’s Gallatin School of Individual Studies.

Enjoy these stimulating days of historical discussion and interpretation while celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service.  The event is FREE and reservations are NOT required.  RSVPs to the National Park Service are appreciated for planning purposes. To RSVP or for more information, please call Friendship Hill National Historic Site at 724-329-2501, or email
Visit or follow Friendship Hill National Historic Site on Facebook for information on upcoming programs.

Friendship Hill is located three miles north of Point Marion, Pennsylvania on State Route 166 north. The location address for use with online mapping services is 223 New Geneva Road, Point Marion, PA 15445.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Eating Out on a Dime (Well, $6 Really)

Spend Smart while Eating Great

Win free lunch for a month as well as other great prizes from Oakland retail shops!

Also, enjoy a Meatless Monday option thanks to the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants Program — OBID’s way of helping to reduce the impact on the environment.

Participating Restaurants
Fuel and Fuddle
212 Oakland Ave.

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich with Melted Provolone and Horseradish Mayo
Jerk Chicken Pizza with Mozzarella, Roasted Red Peppers, and Red Onion
Buffalo Fried Pierogies (Vegetarian)

Golden Palace Buffet
3607 Forbes Ave.

Each order comes with steam rice or fried rice and an apple/orange
General Tso’s Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken, Beef or Shrimp
Chicken, Shrimp or Beef Fried Rice
Chicken, Shrimp or Beef Lo Mein
String Beans with Chicken, Shrimp or Beef
Sesame Tofu
Mixed Vegetables
Vegetable Lo Mein
Vegetable Fried Rice
Golden Chicken
Fried Fish

Hello Bistro
3605 Forbes Ave.

E’nP Superburger and a Boylan’s Soda – all week
Broccauliflower Grilled Cheese and a Boylan’s Soda – Meatless Monday only

Hilton Garden Inn
3454 Forbes Ave.

Meatless Monday
Veggie burger w/ Greek mayo & Avocado

Tues – Sat
Smash Burger w/ Bacon Jam & Sriracha Mayo.

Both burgers will be served w/ homemade chips

Original Milano Pizza
3606 Fifth Ave.

Mon: 2 cuts 1 topping and a drink
Tues: 1 slice 1 side salad and drink
Wed: 1 slice 1 fruit cup and a drink
Thurs: any 1/2 hoagie except eggplant and a drink
Fri: 2 cuts 2 toppings

Oakland Bakery & Market
3925 Fifth Ave.

Meatless Salad w/ Roll

Cup of Soup & pastry

Sandwich & a Muffin

Croissant & Salad Option

Sandwich & Slice of Cake

Salad & Bagel

*must pay with cash or credit

Noodles & Company
3805 Forbes Ave.

A Small dish of the following no protein:
Buttered Noodles
Mushroom Stroganoff
Wisconsin Mac & Cheese
Japanese Pan Noodle
Pad Thai
Bangkok Curry
Indonesian Peanut Saute
Whole Grain Tuscan Fresca
Pesto Cavatappi
Penne Rosa

It will include one side of the following and a fountain beverage:
Tossed Green Salad
Caesar Salad
Mac & Cheese
Thai Curry Soup
Tomato Basil Bisque Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup

Pamela’s Diner
3703 Forbes Ave.

Meatless Monday Option – Tuna Salad Sandwich On A Croissant
Tue. Chicken Salad Sandwich On A Croissant
Wed. Egg Salad On Croissant
Thur. Turkey Rachel On A Croissant
Fri. Crab Salad On Croissant
Sat. California French Toast
All Sandwiches Served With French
Fries, Homefries, Onion Rings Or Coleslaw.

Peter’s Pub
116 Oakland Ave.

Vegetable Flat Bread Pizza: Golden Flat Bread, topped with Homemade Pesto, Fresh Cut Mushrooms, Onions, Peppers, Spinach, and Creamy Feta Cheese. Served with choice of Soup or Salad.
Blackened Chicken Alfredo: Blacken Chicken Breast Served over Cavatappi Noodles, Smothered in a Creamy Homemade Alfredo Sauce.

Pork Taco’s: (2) Fresh Braised Pork, Lettuce, Diced Tomato, Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese, Piled in A Flour Tortilla, topped with a Sweet Chili Sauce. Served with Rice Pilaf.

Guiness Beef Stew: Slow Roasted, Tender Beef, Potatoes, Carrots, Onion, and Celery. Served in a Bread Bowl.

BBQ Ribs: 1/2 Rack Slow Cooked Pork Ribs, Grilled to Order, Smothered in Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce. Served with a Smokehouse Mac and Cheese.

Tuna Melt: Fresh made Tuna Salad, American Cheese, Lettuce, and Tomato, Grilled on Fresh Foccocia Bread. Served with Choice of Soup or Salad.

Primaniti Bros.
3803 Forbes Ave.

$6 Pitts-burger and Soft Drink
Monday – Spicy Southwest Black Bean Burger

Prince of India
3614 Fifth Ave.

One Plate at Buffet (no drink)

Red Oak Cafe’
3610 Forbes Ave.

Blue Plate Specials

Meatless Monday – ask about our special of the day

Cajun Chicken w/ Cheddar Grits

Smoked BBQ Pork w/ Pickled Slaw & Roasted Garlic Potatoes

Braised Beef & Beans w/ Spicy Sweet Potato, Pickles & Peppers

Fish Tacos, Mango Slaw & Avocado Sauce, Corn, Rice & Bean Salad

Vegetarian Option for Every Day!
Veggie Chilli Plate
Veggie Pattie Plate

Sciulli’s Pizza
3404 Fifth Ave.

Jr. 1 topping & Coke
Any 1/2 hoagie, fries & Coke
Shrimp basket & Coke

Sincerely Yogurt
3400 Fifth Ave.

FEE Organic coffee with purchase of Frozen yogurt

Sorrento’s Pizza Roma
233 Atwood St.

Mon-any hoagie, side fry, soda
Tue-small plain pizza, soda
Wed-2 cuts Sicilian pizza, 2 toppings, soda
Thursday-calzone 2 toppings
Friday-small white pizza

Stack’d Burgers & Beers
3716 Forbes Ave.

Meatless Monday option is veggie quesadilla.

For every other day option of:
A) Short stack burger with american cheese and order of fries
B) order of chicken strips
C) Buffalo chicken quesadilla, bacon cheeseburger quesadilla, or veggie quesadilla

Sushi Fuku
120 Oakland Ave.

$6 on all protein

$2 extra for additional protein

121 Oakland Ave.

4 pc tender meal and tenders sub

Top Shabu-Shabu & Lounge
114 Atwood St.

3-dish combo

sustainable pghThis event is funded by the Oakland Business Improvement District with additional support provided by Sustainable Pittsburgh.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Little Sheba - Inge’s 50s Shocker Makes a Comeback

Susan McGregor-Laine and Mark Yochum in "Come Back Little Sheba" Credit: Dale Hess

     They say that many wine connoisseurs are able to identify the grape from which a particular wine is made simply by its color, bouquet, aroma and taste. On the same note, many veteran theater-goers might also have a similar ability, that of being able to identify a particular playwright a few minutes into act one by their tone, subject matter, language choices and style.

To my mind, one of those most easily identifiable is William Inge, whose works often start out pleasantly and inviting, then eventually take a darker tone like the bite of a tannic and dry Cabernet, then finish, after a bit of Sturm und Drang, on a pleasingly hopeful tone.

One of Inge’s plays and his first Broadway hit, "Come Back Little Sheba," is getting another look at the Genesius Theater on the campus of Duquesne University in Downtown Pittsburgh. Up through July 24, it seems to be doing well in the terroir of this comfortable, relatively new, 130-seat, black box-style theater.

Like many other Inge plays, Sheba’s setting is a small town in the Midwest circa the 1950s. The play opens with the comfy coziness of a Norman Rockwell painting in the kitchen of a husband and wife who’ve been married for 20 years. Doc Delany (Mark Yochum) is a rather low-key, affable chiropractor who dresses in typical 50s professional male attire - in a suit and hat that seems so passé nowadays. His wife Lola (Susan McGregor-Laine), is more energetic and spirited, a one-time beauty who’s gotten plump and a tad slovenly through the years.

The Delaneys married young, the result of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy at a time when such things brought with them great embarrassment and social devastation. Doc, however, stepped up to his responsibilities and married the blighted 18 year old, thereby saving her reputation. Unfortunately, the couple lost the baby and, along with it, any chance of having another.

As a sort of familial surrogate, they’ve let out a room in their house to a college student and artist, Marie (Lauren Brendel), who initially comes across as innocent, pure and almost virginal but whose libido is deceptively freer than it appears. Early on, even Doc, despite his rather even-keeled temperament, seems drawn to the emancipated young woman

As Lola, McGregor-Laine adds bits of merriment to the mostly dark downward spiral that Inge takes us on. Especially humorous is the way she reacts with sexual interest to Marie’s model, Turk (George Ramey), a muscled javelin thrower with no compunction about stripping down to his boxers to post for a Marie sketch. Lola even shows a cheeky friendliness to the postman and milk man who stop by on their daily rounds. Delicious moments these.

Even with such shenanigans up her sleeve, Lola seems a bit bored by daily life and tries to overcompensate by being overly neighborly. Doc, on the other hand, seems more inwardly preoccupied, which fits right into the audience’s discovery that he’s in alcohol recovery and probably spending most of his energy subduing his demons and addiction.

The "Father Knows Best" feel to the opening few minutes of the play soon morphs into something darker and more serious. Marie’s sexual liberation seems to push Doc over the edge, and he soon reaches for the bottle of Old Grandad placed all too conveniently in the kitchen cupboard and surreptitiously heads out the door.

My first inclination was to see Doc’s off-the-wagon reacquaintance with the bottle as a jealous reaction to Marie’s romantic encounters or his marred image of her as a pristinely chaste young woman. But a friend pointed out that it could also have been a result of him beginning to suspect that he might not have actually been the father of Lola’s child.

Fueled by alcohol, Doc’s pent up anger takes a violent turn that could have turned out a lot worse than it actually does. In fact, the episode does have some redeeming value in that it solidifies the couple’s relationship and gives them the resolution to go on with their lives.

Several times in the play, Lola goes to the door and calls for Sheba, a dog that went missing and one for which she still longs. Like her now vanished youth, looks and attractiveness, she hopes that the dog will be return. But by the end of the play, she resigns herself to the fact that the dog and her previous life are both a thing of the past.

Both McGregor-Laine and Yochum anchor the play as seasoned actors with impressive acting credentials and awards. Many of the rest of the cast are much younger and just starting their theater careers and understandably lack the polish and finesse of the veterans. Even so, they bolster the drama with credible characters and smartly delivered lines.

Especially noteworthy is George Ramey as the bold and brash Turk, Eric Mathews in the double role of the Postman/Elmo Huston and set designer, John E. Lane, Jr., who assembled enough 50s era furniture (stove, refrigerator, end tables, doilies, radio, dial phone, even some period Look magazines) to give the proceedings an authentic feel.

Credit director Justin Sines with imbuing the cast with fine sense of timing that makes the two hour long play roll by with interest, polish and emotional intensity.

"Come Back Little Sheba is a production of The Summer Company and plays through July 24 at the Genesius Theater on the campus of Duquesne University in Downtown Pittsburgh. For tickets visit

Andrey Nemzer Stars in Summerfest Staging of "Julius Caesar"

Andrey Nemzer as Julius Caesar Credit: Patti Brahim

Countertenor Andrey Nemzer has gained acclaim with many distinguished opera houses. Mr. Nemzer covered the title role of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto in a new production for the Metropolitan Opera 2012-13 and this July is singing the role of Caesar in English for Opera Theater SummerFest’s Julius Caesar. He has appeared in SummerFest in each of five seasons in lead roles and a sold-out Russian recital. During 2013–14, he debuted on the Met stage in role of The Guardian in R. Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten. Mr. Nemzer has been recognized as a rising star during major competitions including Placido Domingo’s Operalia (3rd place, 2014), Met National Council (winner 2012), and winner of Opera Theater’s Mildred Miller International Voice Competition (2012), among others.

A final performance is scheduled for 7;30 on Saturday,  July 23. For tickets, phone 412-326-9687 or visit website

Below Nemzer discusses aspects of his career in a Q & A with Summerfest staff.

Q: What have you been up since SummerFest 2015?
A: After SummerFest 2015 I participated in many different recitals in the U.S. and Russia, have been a part of Chautauqua Summer Concert Series, collaborated with Quantum Theater in opera/pastiche on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, and covered Susan Graham at The Met as Prince Orlofsky in Strauss' Die Fledermaus. Ms. Graham unfortunately got sick, and I had a chance to go on The Met stage, which was an amazing experience; Maestro James Levine was conducting the opera. I also was a soloist in the semi-staged performance of Bach's St. John's Passion with PSO, Maestro Manfred Honeck with direction by Sam Helfrich.

Q: How do you feel about the work ahead in Julius Caesar?
A: I am very excited to be a part of this amazing opera, especially singing the leading role. This will be my first leading role, and it is a double responsibility for me to do it at the top of my abilities. At the same time, this role is very comfortable for my instrument and emotionally I am on the same level with Caesar, who said at one point, "The world is waiting to be won, waiting for the man, who dares accept its challenge". No matter how difficult life is, it is an enormous happiness to have one and to go through challenges believing in the victory.
Andrey Nemzer Photo Credit; Patti Brahim

Q: Caesar's a big one! Any other roles you’d love to perform in the future?
A: Yes, of course. My next dream is to do Ratmir from Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila. This amazing Russian opera has been rarely performed even in Russia, because it is long (goes about 4 and a half hours), has 5 acts, and requires a big group of artists. Although I'm still hoping that one day I will be able to sing this role from which I sometimes include a wonderful aria in my recitals. I'm also looking forward to more traditional roles for countertenor from the Baroque period.

Q: Tell us briefly how you came to find your voice as a countertenor. What challenges have you experienced in the opera world with this voice type?
A: It happened accidentally. I just tried my voice one day to sound as a lady and some of my friends heard it. They were amazed by how it sounded and told me that it seems this is a career path I should take. I listened to them and followed it, which I'm so happy! The main challenge is that the repertoire of countertenor is pretty specific. Most believe the countertenor's repertoire is limited only to the Renaissance, Baroque and early Classicism. However, if a countertenor has the right appearance and voice, the singer can do pants roles from later operas and crossdress. Why not? Also besides operatic repertoire, there is a huge cantata/oratorio and art songs repertoire that is pretty much suitable for a countertenor voice. I'm very happy that nowadays an interest in countertenor singing has come back, and more and more modern composers express this interest in creating new music and roles in opera for this unique voice type

Q: Where/what will you move onto after SummerFest 2016?
A: I'm planning to stay in Pittsburgh for a while. I'm expecting contracts from Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera for very interesting projects in November 2016 and January 2017. I'm also going to collaborate in February 2017 with another amazing group of local musicians from Resonance Works to perform Bernstein's Missa Brevis. For more engagements, please follow my Facebook page and website.

Q: Andrey, besides music and opera, what other things are you passionate about?
A: I can't say there is something else that makes me as passionate as music. However, I have some other interests like passenger jets and perfume

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Chatham Baroque Joins Summerfest for Staging of Handel's "Julius Caesar"

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh stages Handel’s JULIUS CAESAR, one of the greatest love stories in all of history! Passion and politics collide in the timeless tales of Caesar (Andrey Nemzer) and Cleopatra (Lara Lynn McGill). The three roles written by Handel for superstar castrati are sung by three fantastic countertenors: Mr. Nemzer, Min Sang Kim, and Zachary Wood. 
Countertenors Andrey Nemzer, Zachary Wood and Min Sang Kim

Walter Morales conducts Chatham Baroque, the opera’s guest orchestra. This exciting contemporary-style production is staged by Dan Rigazzi of the directorial team of the Metropolitan Opera.
Free Late Night Cabaret after the shows on Saturdays 16 and 23 July. All patrons welcome at these events.

One of William Shakespeare's most enduring characters, Julius Caesar looms large in contemporary culture (the month of our SummerFest performances is named for him!). The story of the heroic Caesar and the entrancing Cleopatra have fueled countless books, plays, and films, but Handel's 1724 Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) is considered his masterpiece, not just by audiences in Handel's day, but also by opera-goers worldwide today.

Andrey Nemzer, noted Pittsburgh countertenor, takes on the demanding title role, with Opera Theater veteran Lara Lynn McGill as the beautiful Cleopatra, who, as Stacy Schiff observes in her bestselling recent biography of the queen, "has had one of the busiest afterlives in history, eventually becoming an asteroid, a video game, a cliché, a cigarette, a slot machine, a strip club, and a synonym for Elizabeth Taylor."

Opera Theater's new production features members of Chatham Baroque in the orchestra. "One of Pittsburgh’s greatest treasures” says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chatham Baroque continues to excite local, national, and international audiences with dazzling technique and lively interpretations of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music played on instruments of the period. Learn more on

Performances of Julius Caesar are part of a global commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, as are those of Kiss Me, Kate, Cole Porter's lively backstage musical based on The Taming of the Shrew.

Performance times are Sunday, 17 July at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, 23 July at 7:30 p.m.
For tickets, phone 412-326-9687 or visit website


Dine and save at nearby East End restaurant partners with your ticket on performance day. Make pre-show plans at: Bites & Brews, Cafe Zinho, The Elbow Room, Lucca Ristorante, and Zarra's.
Partake of light fare by Fabled Table and beverages before evening shows in the Cabaret Lounge. Cold beverages available at matinees. Take in our Strong Women Art Exhibition features works by Melissa Sullivan and Patti Mennick all season long in the Cabaret Lounge.

Catch pre-show artist talks and entertainment by Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks one-hour before curtain on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

Soprano Lara Lynn McGill  Credit: Catherine Aceto

More about Soprano Lara Lynn McGill

Soprano Lara Lynn McGill has been described as "a voice of size, clarity, and wide coloristic range...a three-dimensional figure who combined vulnerability with strength and tugged at the heartstrings in her every breath and movement" (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2013). With Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, she portrayed Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann and Mamah Cheney in Shining Brow. Last season, during SummerFest 2015, Lara Lynn created the role of Alice Front in the world premiere of A New Kind of Fallout by Gilda Lyons and Tammy Ryan.

The following is a Q & A conducted by Summerfest’s Catherine Aceto with Ms. McGill:

Q: What have you been up since SummerFest 2015?
A: After A New Kind of Fallout last summer, I was in another world premiere - "Shahrazad " by Amiche Artists. Then I got married! I also placed in a competition. It was quite a year!

Q: Your performance last year in A New Kind of Fallout was emotionally powerful. How do you feel about the work ahead with Julius Caesar?
A: I'm extremely excited to portray Cleopatra. As much as I enjoyed creating the character of Alice Front [from A New Kind of Fallout] last year, there's something special about becoming a historical figure. Reading her biography, visiting museums, and, of course, watching the Elizabeth Taylor movie have all been a part of my character study.

I am in awe of Cleopatra's strength, wit, and her conviction to be a great ruler. Her romance and reign with Caesar is fascinating. She's 22 and he is in his 50s, yet her intelligence and charm win him to her side. I approach this role with humility and gratitude, knowing that Handel’s ingenious score is what truly makes Cleopatra shine on the stage.

Lara Lynn McGill Credit: Catherine Aceto

Q: Cleopatra's a big one! Any other roles you’d love to perform in the future?
A: Ah, my dream role has to be Violetta in La traviata. Another strong woman!

Q: Where/what will you move onto after SummerFest 2016?
A: I'm not sure yet...still waiting to hear back from all the auditions I squeezed in before this SummerFest!

Q: Lara Lynn, besides music and opera, what other things are you passionate about?

A: Food, family, and Jesus...not particularly in that order, but I do really love food