PHOTO COURTESY OF PENOBSCOT THEATRE COMPANY

Gone to the dogs: Mutts star in canine operas



BANGOR — What could be more ridiculous than a pack of dogs dressed in silly costumes and “lip-synching” to classic opera on Zoom? 

Or should I say, what could be more ingenious? Or should I say both? 

Theater, dog and/or opera lovers will get a chance to determine this for themselves by checking out what is perhaps Penobscot Theatre Company’s most outrageous pandemic production, thus far. The Dog Operais a series of three operatic virtual shorts. 

One of these canine operas, “The Barker of Seville,” is already streaming. “Tosca the Ball” will debut April 6 and “Dog Giovanni” is set for May. 

As I said, the cast members are dogs, costumed in the various operatic roles of heroes, villains and damsels in distress. A French bulldog is, well, fetching, as the lovely Rosina (sung by soprano Annie Leonardi) in “The Barker of Seville,” while a handsome Lab mix stands in for the lovestruck Count Almaviva (tenor Ira Kramer). A grizzled golden retriever is the mean alpha dog Barktolo (baritone Frank Bachman) who also is sniffing after Rosina, and a dapper little Maltese (I think) plays the mischievous Figaro (tenor Matt Madore.) 

So, here is why this works. Although the music and script, adapted by Larrance Fingerhut and Christie Robbinshas been reworked to suit a shaggier, doggier story than Rossini had in mind — i.e., the count rhapsodizes over Rosina’s lovely tail — their singing is seriously good. So, it is a good listen.  

Equally important to pulling this off are Brad LaBree’s excellent filming and editing, which often makes it seem as if the dogs are actually acting their roles. Rosina gazes soulfully into the heavens as she warbles a love song, and Barktolo looks positively lecherous when plotting to win the lovely, if somewhat slobbery, bitch.  

The audio, art and set direction by Neil Graham and Kat Johnson, respectively, are equally professional, which lifts the whole thing way above a silly stunt. 

Another great reason for getting a ticket to these fun, virtual dog opera performances is that they are only about 15 minutes long and one doesn’t have a chance to get tired of the mutts, the music or the concept. 

So, bravo to PTC for once again thinking outside the Zoom box and finding fresh, new ways to entertain its audiences. The next few weeks also feature “The Game Dame” with Jen Shepard as host of a trivia contest and a fun interactive murder mystery, “Who Killed Zolan Mize? 

To access these shows and for information about other upcoming events, go to penobscottheatre.org. 

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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