New 'Nemo' Has Appeal That's Timeless

By Williams, Gayle | Sarasota Herald Tribune, November 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

New 'Nemo' Has Appeal That's Timeless


Williams, Gayle, Sarasota Herald Tribune


World premieres have a tough go of it. Once through and the audience is expected to offer a thumbs up or down. It's really not fair. Yet, we wouldn't need fancy statistical models to project that the Sarasota Opera's commissioned and freshly premiered opera "Little Nemo in Slumberland" has staying power. It has a timeless appeal that will ensure it has many more opportunities to delight audiences.

Based on an American cartoon created by Winsor McCay and published between the years 1905 to 1914, Little Nemo's story was strung together by poet and librettist J.D. McClatchy and set to music by Daron Aric Hagen. Together they wove a magic opera, as intended, that relied not only on able voices and actors, but also on considerable inventive theatrical effects to create a fantastic cartoon world.

Although I saw only the Sunday performance, there were two casts of children performing the lead roles. Sunday's Little Nemo (Katherine Powell) and the Princess (K.C. Herbert) were sweetly and courageously trying to save Slumberland from the intrusion of the Emperor of Sol, whose deputy was the golden-clad and -voiced Guardian of the Dawn, studio artist Chelsea Basler.

Among the most memorable characters of this story is Dr. Pill, who seemed to be there merely to provide comic relief. Kyle Gugliemo nearly stole the show with his "oh my" hand wringing and pratfalls. The troublemaker Flip, Natalie Almeter in Sunday's cast, had a bold voice to match Flip's mischief and cocky attitude.

The storyline, nonlinear and a bit patchy just like dreams, call for inventive solutions to scenic and story line demands. It seems at every turn there was something fun and surprising to catch one's attention.

Hagen himself described the music as crossover. It was open and optimistic, easily accessible and heart-on-the-sleeve sentimental. …

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