An afternoon at the oper(ett)a

The Delaware Valley Opera comes back with big plans post-pandemic

Posted 7/20/21

CALLICOON CENTER, NY — “What a joy to be here,” sang the cast, opening the Delaware Valley Opera’s first production of the 2021 season. 

It was indeed a joy to be …

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An afternoon at the oper(ett)a

The Delaware Valley Opera comes back with big plans post-pandemic


CALLICOON CENTER, NY — “What a joy to be here,” sang the cast, opening the Delaware Valley Opera’s first production of the 2021 season. 

It was indeed a joy to be there: for the performers, for the members and the volunteers of the Delaware Valley Opera (DVO) and for the audience in the packed house. 

The DVO came back for its first live performance since the start of the pandemic with a “greatest hits” program of songs from classic operettas, titled “Feisty! Frivolous! Frothy!”

Operettas, a genre of musical productions with origins in the 1800s, occupy a space somewhere between full-blown operas and modern-day musicals, offering operatic feats of vocal lyricism alongside the comedic tone and spoken-word passages of musicals. 

The DVO’s revue highlighted both sides of that space, with songs from a wide variety of operettas gorgeously sung and delivered with a precisely comedic tone. 

Through the fire

The concert—and the DVO’s whole 2021 season—comes at a time of rebirth and rebuilding. 

Unable to produce live productions during the pandemic, the company took the time to reflect, examining its organization and its mission. “It reminds me of the lodgepole pine that needs fire to germinate new trees,” writes Carol Castel, artistic director of the DVO, in the season’s program notes. “We have been through the fire and come out the other side—grateful that from the experience we had the time to re-evaluate the DVO’s mission and future.”

From that re-evaluation comes an eye-catching announcement: starting this winter, the DVO will be performing from its very own production space. 

DVO recently purchased the former Nutshell building on Route 52 in Lake Huntington. Built in the 1890s, with later expansions and the addition of a building next door called “the Casino,” the Nutshell has been a bar, a restaurant, a disco, a theater, a nightclub and an art gallery over its long and storied history. 

Now, the building will be the Delaware Valley Opera Center (DVOC), intended as “a destination arts location” for Sullivan County and beyond, in the words of Suzann Dvorken, the president of the DVO’s board of directors. 

While the DVOC will have amazing value as a full-time production space, it also allows the DVO to expand its community offerings. Plans are in the works to use the center as a cafe and cabaret space for open mic nights, as a space for classes and workshops, as a performance space for small intimate musical evenings and as a home for educational outreach programs. 

“It’s a huge undertaking, but somehow the pandemic unleashed the need for us to move courageously forward and take action to realize this 35-year-old dream,” writes Castel. 

What a joy to be here

The full realization of that dream is yet to come. While the Nutshell building comes fully equipped as a performance space, the DVO won’t hold its first production there until December. 

For the summer, the DVO is performing in the Haypress Barn at the Callicoon Hills Resort in Callicoon Center, a beautiful rustic building surrounded by the gorgeous scenery of the New York countryside. 

“Feisty! Frivolous! Frothy!” used the space to its full advantage. There weren’t extravagant sets or elaborate choreography—the seven-person cast performed on a sparsely furnished stage, with a wide assortment of costumes the only indulgence of staging—but the simplicity of the scene let the beauty of the performances stand out, their brilliance undiminished. 

The cast tackled songs from a wide range of composers, from Gilbert and Sullivan and John Philip Sousa to Victor Herbert and Leonard Bernstein, and performed each style in turn without a stumble. 

Of particular note: soprano Brooke Schooley and baritone Jonathan Stinson stunned in a powerful, piercing duet from Rudolf Frimk’s “Rose Marie”; Gilbert and Sullivan veteran Nicholas Wuehrmann dazzled with impeccable delivery and comedic sensibility in a variety of fast-paced “patter songs”; tenor Marcus Aiken Huber brought a wonderfully sweet and warm tone to multiple roles, including Frederic from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” and the title role from Bernstein’s “Candide”; soprano Elise Mark provided an effortless, gorgeous lyricism to songs like Victor Herbert’s serenade “Moonbeams”; and mezzo-soprano Annie Chester brought a rich, fierce vibrance to a wide range of character and styles. 

DVO General Manager Ken Parks rounded out the cast, bringing a commanding bass-baritone to the cast and to introductory explanatory narration. Music director and conductor Matthew Rupcich and pianist Erica Rome brought the production together, guiding the performance with understated expertise. 

Onwards and upwards

The DVO has two productions still to come in the Hayfield Barn.

The first, this coming weekend (July 24 and 25), is a concert of opera excerpts, from Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutti” to Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti.”

On August 14 and 15, the DVO will host the Opera Cowgirls, an all-girl band that blends opera, country and rock. 

And after that, the DVO will christen its new performance space with a production on December 4 and 5 of “The Gift of the Magi,” with David Conte as the composer and Nicholas Giardini as the librettist.

For more information on the DVO, visit its website at For tickets to the upcoming concerts, visit

Delaware Valley Opera, operetta, 2021 season, Delaware Valley Opera Center, the Nutshell


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