On Saturday, October 14th at 8 pm, “Joan of Arc, An Opera,” will be presented by Divaria Productions live on stage at Bay Street Theater. American Opera star Ashley Galvani Bell who is the founder of Divaria, in an interview with Hamptons.com said, “So much incredibly beautiful music has been written about Joan of Arc around the world (from France to Germany to Russia to Italy) and from the 1700s all the way until today.” Therefore, after reading the play, St. Joan, by George Bernard Shaw, Ms. Bell knew she had the potential makings of a new show for Bay Street. She is hoping the audience will enjoy it as much as she has enjoyed putting it together.
She is grateful that over the years the Bay Street Theater audience has embraced the productions she has created. She said concerning this show, “I’m never 100% sure how a project will turn out or be received, especially at the beginning stages. I really love singing but I’ve also always been fascinated by history and especially get a high from creating productions in which audiences can both learn something historical and have a good time.” Ashley’s mother is an actress and she said she is very, very lucky to be working with the actors in this project on “voice & speech” because Ashley has always loved theatre and has always longed to incorporate theatre into opera productions.
In the last year, Ms. Bell had wonderful professional success in Spain. She explained, “In January, I got the call to step in at the last minute as Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte and make my debut with the prestigious ABAO Bilbao Opera which was a stressful but absolutely amazing experience!” Then in mid-July she performed the title role in Pedro Halffter’s opera Klara, playing a form of artificial intelligence, in a very interesting production with holograms directed by Bay Street’s Anton Armendariz. Next, she performed as Violetta in La Traviata in probably one of the most unique venues, the patio of a castle in the Leon region of Spain which Ms. Bell said, “…had some of the most amazing acoustics I’ve ever had the opportunity to sing in!” In August, she was very grateful to be invited back by Maestro Pedro Halffter to the Musica en Villafranca Festival to sing the soprano solo in Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony and also to do the world premiere of his opera Penelope’s Dream.
Ms. Bell said she is very blessed to be working with such a talented production team and group of musicians and actors. The “Joan of Arc” production will be co-directed by Anton Armendariz, who is back for the 9th year to lend his unique creativity and vision to this project. Also on hand will be her brother Andrew Bell who co-directed Othello at Bay Street in 2019. He also wrote the original production “Don Giovanni” in New York in 2018.
The musical director for “Joan of Arc” is a very talented young Spanish prodigy, Sergio Martinez Zangroniz. He will lead the string quartet of musicians all drawn from the New Asia Chamber Music Society, run by the brilliant violist Andy Lin. In addition to Ms. Bell as Joan of Arc, two other opera singers, baritone Michael Nansel whom Bay Street audiences will remember from his performance last year in “The Shakespeare Riots” and tenor Victor Starsky who just sang Romeo in “Romeo et Juliette” with the New York City Opera will be featured.
The actress playing the title role of Joan of Arc is the talented La Rivers, whom audiences will remember from her performance last year as First Witch in “Shakespeare Riots.” Michael Rudko, the brilliant impresario Max Maretzek in “Shakespeare Riots,” will also be back along with Jan Mizushima and Liana Afuni. Powerful actor Ron Menzel will play Dauphin Charles.
Thinking forward, Ms. Bell said her aim is for opera to be able to be experienced by all types of audiences, those who love the arts such as dance, Broadway, or film, but have been afraid to experience opera either because of the cost or because they think it’s something stuffy or old-fashioned. Her vision in merging opera with other mediums is her way to draw audiences from other artistic mediums to experience their first taste of opera and vice versa for veteran opera lovers. She believes “Opera can be for everyone.”
In conclusion, Ms. Bell said, “My dream is to continue to create productions that simultaneously entertain and educate so that we can both cultivate younger audiences who perhaps can be exposed to opera as a complement to something in their school curricula and attract lovers of history.”