International City Theatre Presents Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning ‘Master Class’
2013-02-20 · By Editor
Gigi Bermingham will star as internationally renowned opera diva Maria Callas when International City Theatre (ICT) presents Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning Master Class. Todd Nielsen directs a four-week run beginning March 22 at ICT, located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Two low-priced previews are set for March 20 and 21.
Soprano Maria Callas had a legendary voice and an equally legendary life as one of the world’s most celebrated—and gossiped-about—opera stars. In 1971, Callas taught a series of master classes at Juilliard during which she worked through her most famous arias from Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Puccini and others. McNally’s play finds the illustrious singer near the end of her career, her voice almost gone, as she uses wicked humor, unrelenting criticism and deeply personal stories to instruct a group of aspiring young singers. Delving into the life and work of one of the 20th century’s greatest talents, Master Class is a complex exploration of the relationship of an artist to her art.
“As a performing artist, I identify with Maria’s grandiosity as well as her humiliation,” says Bermingham. “It’s a privilege to embody the essence of ‘La Divina,’ this fascinating, deeply sensitive woman whose own experience was as exquisite and as tragic as the operas she brought to life.”
“Callas experienced such passionate dedication to her art on such a grand emotional scale,” agrees Nielsen, who first fell in love with McNally’s writing when he directed Frankie and Johnnie in the Clair de Lune for ICT a few years ago. “Master Class is so special because McNally has fused brilliantly poetic dialogue and wonderful humor with great music from classic operas.”
Sharing the stage with Bermingham as Maria’s students are Danielle Skalsky as young soprano Sophie De Palma; Jennifer Shelton as soprano Sharon Graham; Tyler Milliron as tenor Anthony Candolino; award-winning pianist and concert soloist James Lent as accompanist Emmanuel Weinstock; and Jeremy Mascia as the stage hand.
Maria Callas was one of the great operatic stars of the 20th century, with an unmatched passion for her work. Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind on stage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas’ temperamental behavior, her rivalry with Renata Tebaldi, and her love affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press. However, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her “The Bible of opera,” and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.”
Master Class runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm, March 22 through April 14. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, March 20 and Thursday, March 21 @ 8 pm. Tickets are $38 on Thursdays and $45 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night which is $50 and includes a reception with the actors following the performance. Preview tickets are $29. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at 562-436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.