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April Hanson

Opera Bob Presents: Riders to the Sea-A One Act Opera

Location + schedule

U of M Rarig Center Proscenium
330 21st Ave. S, Main Floor

DateTimeMy FringeAccess
Sunday 8/810:00 p.m.  
Thursday 8/1210:00 p.m.  
Friday 8/138:30 p.m.  
Saturday 8/144:00 p.m.  
Sunday 8/151:00 p.m.  
About the show

Contains Nudity
For ages 16+
Musical theater, Drama, Relationships, Historical

Written by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Overall rating

Opera Bob returns to the Minnesota Fringe Festival with an unconventional staging of the masterwork "Riders to the Sea" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Based almost word for word on the play of the same name by John Millington Sygne, the story tells of three women surviving on the unforgiving coast of Ireland. Day after day they prepare brothers, husbands and sons to be swallowed by the sea. They approach a crossroads as they prepare the last remaining son for his journey to death.

*Please note: There is NO nudity in this production*

For more information on Opera Bob go to

April Hanson
Role: Maurya
Mezzo-Soprano April Hanson has performed extensively with the University of Minnesota Opera Theater. Roles include Arnalta (L’incornazione di Poppea), Principessa (Suor Angelica), Emma Jones (Street Scene) Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), Mrs. Grose (Turn of the Screw) and Zita (Gianni Schicchi). She has also appeared with the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company in Iolanthe as the Fairy Queen. Solo concert appearances include the Mozart Requiem with the University of Minnesota’s Orchestra, and Handel’s Messiah with the Dakota Valley Symphony. As a young artist with Pine Mountain Music Festival, Hanson covered the role of Dame Quickly in Falstaff and performed the role of Mama Lucia in Cavelleria Rusticana.

Carrie Henneman Shaw
Role: Cathleen
Soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw, is a recipient of the 2010-2011 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians administered by the MacPhail Center for Music. Shaw collaborates regularly with ensembles across the country, including The Newberry Consort, LIBER, dal Niente, The Rose Ensemble and the Bach Society of Minnesota. Carrie is co-artistic director and a founding member of emerging ensemble Glorious Revolution Baroque, which in May mounted a highly acclaimed production of Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ with soprano Ellen Hargis. Carrie holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Minnesota.

Maggie Lofboom
Role: Nora
Mezzo soprano Maggie Lofboom is a Minnesota native with degrees in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College. She has performed with the Minnesota Opera (including its world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordan's 'The Grapes of Wrath'), Skylark Opera, the Kenwood Symphony, and The Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company. When she isn't performing, Ms. Lofboom enjoys gardening, beekeeping, and spending time with her family and their beautiful Hereford cattle.

Ben Johnson
Role: Bartley
Tenor Ben Johnson in his Opera Bob debut, lives in Minneapolis with wife Jennifer, and children Josiah and Lydia. Ben has worked as a singer-actor since earning his degree in vocal performance
from UMD in 1998. Recent roles with Minnesota Opera: Alcindoro " La Boheme, 1st Inquisitor - Casanova’s Homecoming, Benvilio - Roméo et Juliet, Count Ludivic - Sondheim’s Passion. Musical theater credits include: Marius in Les Miserables and Joseph in the Technicolor Dreamcoat with Chanhassen Theaters. And other favorites: West Side Story (Tony), Into the Woods (Baker) and Damn Yankees (Joe).

Tara Marlena Laberge
Role: Director
Director Tara Marlena Laberge has directed for Minnesota Opera’s Project Opera program, the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre and Summer Music Theatre intensive, Irene Besse Academy of Music and the Mount Royal Academy among others. As a performer, favorite roles include Anna (The King and I), Elsa (The Sound of Music), and Antonia (Tales of Hoffman). She joins the faculty of the Saint Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts in the fall of 2010 and will be on stage with the History Theatre in November 2010 in “A Christmas Schooner”.

Richard Yates
Role: Pianist
Pianist Richard Yates has recently completed his Masters in Choral Conducting at the University of Minnesota, and is currently working towards finishing a Masters in Composition. He graduated in 2006 from the Boston Conservatory with a degree in Composition. Being an advocate for contemporary music, Richard is involved with the University’s New Music Workshop. He also teaches undergraduate music theory courses. Richard studies composition with James Dillon and conducting with Kathy Romey and Matt Mehaffey.

User reviews

by Marvin Joel Rubin Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
A well sung, acted and directed show.

I saw the show last year, so I was excited to see them again. Last year they were performing light and comic material. This year the material was dark.

April Hanson's singing and acting, is a Fringe 2010 highlight.

a little unfulfilled
by daniel taradash Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
I may not be the best critic at opera. i have seen only one before and it was horrible. This one was, at least, only 1/4 the length. I guess it is just that not much happens here. I mostly figured out the story, but wanted something more.

Well-Done on All Counts
by Carolyn Elerding Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
What a treat to hear a relatively esoteric opera performed by such an excellent cast under such talented direction. April Hanson's contralto voice is a rare treasure. I have nothing but compliments for everyone involved, including the sensitive accompanist. Way to go, Opera Bob!
My only criticisms of the production as a whole are that the Christian symbolism (the remaining son as a Christ figure) seemed misplaced, even trite, given that little attempt was made to situate the production's realism historically--that is, politically or economically. When an expensive art-form is used to explore the subject of poverty (and when that much talent is used to hold me spell-bound), I need to know why: out of voyeurism, empathy, or a general or particular desire for social justice? I couldn't tell, but perhaps I missed something.
I can't wait to see what Opera Bob does next!

Good singing
by asha sharma Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
This opera, based on the bleak but poetic and beautiful play by John Millington Synge, has very good singing and strong acting by the actress playing Maurya, but sloppy staging and production values that are distracting.

Opera Bob: Riders to the Sea
by Warren Park Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This short, serious opera is really well done. Simple but effective set, props, costumes, and the singing was terrific. Everyone's acting skills were applied convincingly too. This is really a tour de force for April Hanson who came across as a grand opera diva molto espressivo. Hard material to learn with recitative-style singing lines throughout--a bit atypical of Vaughan Williams, compared to, say, his melodic choral works. This is a fine production all the way. Be prepared for an unrelenting downer of a story (any attempt at comic relief here would really misfire, and I'm glad it was never called for). This is solid, dramatic despair from beginning to end, just like John Synge's original story, followed closely. Highly recommended! (IMHO nudity would have been been a pointless distraction here--I'm glad they opted to not include any.)

The work shows but...
by Judith Martin Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
This is a serious piece of work, based on a serious piece of literature (which I read long ago), wrapped in a serious score. There is real talent on stage, but the effort didn't amount to much for me. I walked away feeling more worn down than anything else -- fitting the mood of the characters.

Sorrow, Singing, and the Sea
by Janet Fried Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
The sorrow and fate of a seafaring family told against the small movements of their lives. I was drawn into their tragedy by the simple tasks of the staging paired with the deep emotion of the singing. April Hanson's desperate wail as the mother who has lost so much, and Maggie Lofboom's fragile, protective daughter are notable. See this if you want to be swept by emotion.

Why we go to opera
by Phil Fried Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
If you want to feel something see this show.

I'm not usually an opera fan, BUT
by Nanette Stearns Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I found this to be beautiful, poignant, moving and well-sung. Simple set, costumes make this a very touching piece. I've enjoyed Ralph Vaughn Williams' other works so wanted to give this a try. Enjoyable.

a real snoozer
by mark browning milner Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
this is legitimate opera, extremely well-performed. but holy moly was this endless (for me). only 40 minutes, seemed longer. i'm not a serious opera fan, and if you are you might like this as much as the others here did. fair play to just wasn't my cup of musical theatre. you'd think with a name like "opera bob" there'd be a least one smile cracked. nudity would have helped...

Hooray for One-Act Operas!
by Leah Reddy Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
This dark, depressing story is beautifully staged and sung. The opening trio is positively ethereal; I wish Vaughn-Williams had incorporated a bit more of this style of composition. I particularly enjoyed the crystal clear voice and naturalness of Maggie Lofboom as Nora.

Well directed and well sung!
by Laura Anderson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A great performance by a high caliber cast. Though the subject matter is dark, the pacing of the opera is excellent and the individual characters are distinct and compelling from very beginning. An especially strong vocal performance from April Hanson.

Dark opera worth a chance
by Peter Erickson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Riders of the Sea is very somber opera. This production presents fine singing and convincing acting, especially from the mother, Maurya, played by April Hanson, in a sparse but effective set. Most Fringe attendees, while considering themselves to be an open-minded lot, will likely not readily embrace a serious opera such as this. The problem may be further compounded by the opera itself, which is almost all sung dialog, or recitative, except for a short chorus in the beginning and a longer solo by Maurya near the end. Still, I feel the show is worth its five kitties, and hope that Opera Bob's daring presentation will encourage more than a few to chance a crossing of the long bridge from the usual Fringe fare.

Wear your waterproof mascara
by Da Da Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
If you like to cry, you'll love "Riders to the Sea." Soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw absolutely shines as Cathleen, a keening old mama that is preparing to bury her seventh dead son. Heavy.

If you're looking for long, soaring arias, intricate costumes, or any of the other complicated artifices that decorate so many operatic productions, then this one's not for you. However, solid, talented singers and a simple-yet-moving libretto make this one a winner in my book.

The piece is in English and, unless I desperately need to have my optical prescription updated, does not actually contain any nudity.

Poignant Rarely Performed Opera
by David Trudeau Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Congratulations to Opera Bob for a job well done! This gripping 40 minute Opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams is based word for word on John Synge's one act tragedy of the same name. The stark staging fit the piece well and April Hanson as Maurya is strong as the tragic woman who has lost all to the sea. The program hand out did little to illuminate the work or its history - and carries a biblical quote that I could not connect to either the play or the opera. Here's a plot summary from Wikipedia that I found helpful. "Maurya has lost her husband, father-in-law, and five sons to the sea. As the play begins Nora and Cathleen receive word that a body that may be their brother Michael has washed up on shore in Donegal, far to the north. Bartley is planning to sail to Connemara to sell a horse, and ignores Maurya's pleas to stay. As he leaves, he leaves gracefully. Maurya predicts that by nightfall she will have no living sons, and her daughters chide her for sending Bartley off with an ill word. Maurya goes after Bartley to bless his voyage, and Nora and Cathleen receive clothing from the drowned corpse that confirms it as their brother. Maurya returns home claiming to have seen the ghost of Michael riding behind Bartley and begins lamenting the loss of the men in her family to the sea, after which some villagers bring in the corpse of Bartley, who has fallen off his horse into the sea and drowned."