Bangor’s Penobscot Theatre Co. has gone to the dogs and taken three of the best loved operas in the world with them.
Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport said the opera-loving dogs of Greater Bangor demanded equal time during the company’s 47th season, which went digital due to the pandemic.
“The Dog Operas are something canines have been asking us to do for years,” she said. “At first we had no idea what they were talking about, but pups can be persistent and when they got the cats involved, we knew we were in trouble.”
“The Barker of Seville,” premieres Tuesday with “Tosca the Ball” premiering April 6. “Dog Giovanni” will be released on May 4. Each video is a condensed opera between 12 and 15 minutes long based on “The Barber of Seville,” “Tosca” and “Don Giovanni,” respectively. All are sung in English.
A pack of humans that included Larrance Fingerhut, Christie Robinson, Kat Johnson and Brad LaBree wrote, scored, designed and filmed the reimagined “tails” of love and heartbreak, according to Newport.
“My challenge was to condense the operas, keeping the most famous melodies while maintaining the storyline,” said Fingerhut, who rearranged the familiar scores. “Once I got my dog brain working, I filtered the stories through a dog’s point-of-view and totally reimagined the operas.”
Robinson’s lyrics include a romantic ode to a dog’s “lovely tail,” the declaration of the Alpha dog, who tells other dogs when “to sit, heel or stay,” and the heartfelt doggy desire “to be free without a leash.”
She said the process of creating the shows “has been a complete joy.”
“We’ve created something truly memorable,” Robinson said.
In addition to Johnson and Robinson, other singers for the canine casts include Elena Burns, Annie Leonardi, Frank Bachman, Ira Kramer, Tina Burns, Josh Miller and Matt Madore.
Filming was at times difficult because all but one of the dogs had never acted before, LaBree said. ZuZu, a bulldog, appeared on stage at the Bangor Opera House in “Annie” in 2012.
“Some were more trained than others,” he said. “Getting a tail wag on command was difficult. The tails were either always wagging or not wagging at all. As a result, we went way over budget on treats,” he said.
The dogs include purebreds and mixed breeds. Some may be familiar to the audience from Facebook while others have had lower public profiles.
If “The Barker of Seville” is any indication, the Dog Operas will be howling good fun and a delightful distraction from the wait for vaccination appointments. Dog owners may imagine their own canine companions in some roles, which only adds to the joy of the productions.
For ticket information, visit penobscottheatre.org or call 207-942-3333.