Fresno’s own Jacqueline Antaramian, the Fresno State theater graduate who starred in last year’s StageWorks Fresno production of “Master Class” after understudying the role of Maria Callas on Broadway, made her Metropolitan Opera debut a few years ago in the non-singing role of Clytaemnestra in ”Iphegenie En Tauride.” The opera community must have taken notice, because director Francesca Zambello cast her in last year’s production of Berlioz’s ”Les Troyens.”
The production was featured in a rebroadcast of the Met’s Live in HD series Wednesday night at Edwards. And guess what? Antaramian, home for a visit, was there in person. How cool is that? I couldn’t make the screening, alas, because I was still at work — I’m still kicking myself for missing this one — but I asked Hazel Antaramian Hofman, Jacqueline’s sister, to take a photo for the Beehive. (Jacqueline is pictured above, center, with some very recognizable Fresno theater folks.) Thanks, Hazel!
Denver’s Westword newspaper caught up with Antaramian — who spent 10 years at the Denver Center Theatre Company — to talk about her performance in “Les Troyens,” in which she played the role of Andromache, Hector’s grieving wife. It’s interesting to read her take on the experience. Meanwhile, dare we hope that Antaramian will come back to Fresno soon to perform again?
“Forget all about me,” Maria Callas tells us. “Ignore me. I’m invisible.”
You could no sooner ignore this performance than keep your eyes off the most gorgeous sunset you’ve ever seen.
Jacqueline Antaramian returns to her Fresno roots with a superb portrayal of Callas, the iconic opera singer, in the beautifully crafted StageWorks Fresno/Fresno Grand Opera production of “Master Class” at the Shaghoian Hall. I’m not usually the type of critic who actively exhorts people to get up off their seats and into a car headed to the theater, but this is a time for forceful imperatives: If you don’t act quickly, you’ll miss this remarkable performance. It plays just two more times: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
It’s no surprise Antaramian brings such craft and expertise to the role. After a long and distinguished career in professional regional theater — she started it all off with an acclaimed run in the Fresno State theater department — she made her way to New York. Among other roles on Broadway, she understudied Tyne Daly in the role of Callas in “Master Class.”
Fresno gets its fair share of professional theater productions — but they’re almost always of the touring musical variety. On Friday, a rare event occurs when StageWorks Fresno opens a show that has a hybrid cast of professionals and community-theater veterans. “Master Class” features actors in two leading roles direct from the Broadway production.
I wrote a big profile in Sunday’s Spotlight section of Jacqueline Antaramian, a widely respected professional actor who grew up in Fresno. She plays Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s acclaimed play about the celebrated diva, and she understudied Tyne Daly in the role on Broadway. Though she’s familiar to old-time theatergoers for her roles in Good Company Players and Fresno State productions, this will be Antaramian’s first professional performance in Fresno.
She’s joined by Brian Cali, also an understudy in the Broadway production, and by another Fresno hometown gal, Alicia O’Neill, an opera singer living in Austria, Vienna. I catch up with O’Neill in an interview in Friday’s 7 section.
There are only three performances of “Master Class” (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday) so there isn’t a lot of time for word of mouth to build. But I’ve noticed lots of buzz for the show on Facebook, particularly from members of the local theater community who have had the chance to see a preview performance. (Perhaps some of those proponents will reprise their recommendations via comments on this post.) I’m planning to see the show opening night.
The scene: a packed house Wednesday night at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. There’s an air of anticipation before the performance begins. And no wonder: Many in the audience had been waiting for this moment for eight years.
The star performer: Alicia O’Neill, who graced the stage of Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater from 1992-98 before leaving Fresno for college and a career as a professional opera singer based in Austria. She’s returned many times to visit but had never performed in town. (“It’s been eight years since my family has heard me live,” she told me before the show.)
The program: O’Neill, wearing a resplendent purple gown, in the first half presents a number of famed arias, including selections from “The Barber of Seville,” “Rigoletto” and “Don Giovanni.” She closes out the set with Mozart’s notoriously difficult “Der Holle Rache,” sung by the Queen of the Night. In the second half, O’Neill concentrates on musical theater tunes, including selections from “Carousel” and “The Phantom of the opera.” Terry Lewis adds his voice on some pieces, which are accompanied by Alan Rea, who was O’Neill’s first professional rehearsal accompanist.