Don Quixote brings his quest to Bowling Green State University with all the noble intentions and the
complications that ensue.
The university’s opera theater in collaboration with the Madcap Puppet Theatre brings two tales from
Miguel de Cervantes’ ancient novel to stage with the vibrant color and comedy they require. (Photo: Don
Quixote (Matthew Hayner) gets a hand from Sancho Panza (Joel Trisel) while escaping from the windmills.
(Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune))
The kaleidoscopic production is actually two tales from the novel, the first, Manuel de Falla’s
"Master Peter’s Puppet Show," which uses the puppet troupe, and Georg Philipp Telemann’s
"Don Quixote at the Wedding of the Comacho." The opera will be staged tonight at 8 in Kobacker
Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center on campus and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $9 for students
and seniors. Call (419) 372-8171.
Though this is opera and the musical element is expertly rendered as I’ve come to expect, it’s hard not
to be captivated by the visuals.
Opening with comic announcements by Jesse Koza that mix real advisories with comic patter and some
slapstick, "Master Peter’s Puppet Show," directed by Irina Niculescu, is really a puppet show
within a puppet sow.
The characters – Don Quixote, Master Peter and The Boy – are represented by looming, larger than life
size puppets (designed by BGSU’s Bradford Clark) that are partly worn, partly handled by the puppeteers
who are only partially hidden by the puppets. Sounds awkward, but they move with surprising grace and
|Puppet Show. The Boy
watches the puppet show. (Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
Master Peter is a puppeteer staging a traditional marionette show about a French knight who goes to
rescue his lady from the Moors.
The Boy, sung by Kristin Basore, who with the other singers stands on far stage right, tells the story.
Then the orchestra, the Bowling Green Philharmonic, plays as the marionettes act out what he’s just
narrated. Periodically Master Peter, sung by Nathaniel Hein, and Don Quixote, sung by Michael Hay, will
intervene to chastise him for elaborating on the story.
In the end Quixote becomes so enraptured by the tale of chivalry that he attacks the Moorish puppets
pursuing the two fleeing lovers, and with his lance cuts them down and destroys the set leaving the
puppet master slumped over and despondent and Quixote trumpeting his triumph over the Moors.
While the second half devoted to the Telemann opera, directed by Ronald Shields, doesn’t have that
visceral wow factor of towering puppets, the design by Margaret McCubbin and Keith Hofacker is still
striking. They use a chorus dress in muslin-colored peasant garb as much as animated scenery as a
In the introduction that has Quixote (Matthew Hayner) famously tilting at windmills, they become the
windmills, a swirling mass that entraps the knight who must be rescued by his long-suffering companion
Sancho Panza (Joel Trisel).
Trisel’s performance is the highlight of the show. As he moves about tending to the needs of his
delusional friend, his posture is one, extended eye-roll.
And when he sings, his lines speak clearly full of comic nuance. He notes of a character who appears to
be dying: "When someone moves to meet his maker his discourse seems to have no end."
Certainly a sentiment felt by many an opera lover.
The tale has Quixote and Panza arriving for the wedding of the beautiful shepherdess Quiteria (Hilary
Maiberger) to the well-off Comacho (Todd Doering). The boy Basilio (Drew Ochoa) she grew up with and who
loves her is heartbroken, and so distraught the others fear he will die. It is Panza who concocts the
scheme that unites them with Quixote stepping in full of bluster to protect him.
Amanda Strain and Dustin Hill as two shepherds set the scene for the marriage with a lyrical pastoral
duet, which was actually composed by 18th century composer Reinhard Keiser and inserted into the score
for this production. It’s an added delicacy to a evening full of wonder.