Bold and vivid. This small, adventurous company strives to make opera a visceral, intimate and immediate “encounter,” as they have said. Their alterations to masterpieces aim to get past dated elements that can mute the raw emotions and the timeless issues coursing within the original works. Excerpts from Act I — especially crucial scenes when we see the beer-swilling Pinkerton (the vibrant tenor Mackenzie Whitney) before his wedding and some melting strands of the love duet — are intriguingly presented as dreamlike recollections. The most affecting element was the presentation of their child, a silent character (played by Noah Spagnola). The devotion of the company to Puccini’s music was evident in the sensitive arrangement of the score for five strings and harp, a richly detailed yet delicate rendering that enhanced the drama’s intimacy.
-Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
In a program note, Heartbeat’s young leaders express their desire “to birth productions that tackle urgent questions confronting our society today—questions of otherness, misogyny, cultural appropriation, and crossing borders both literal and metaphysical.” In an interview with the Times, however, the director, Ethan Heard, touched on another important point: “This opera is a masterpiece. We want to honor the beautiful writing and score, but inject some questioning into it, and bring people in closer proximity to it.” The first of these sentiments makes Heartbeat Opera’s production relevant. The second, however, makes it worthwhile. ...What’s so pleasing about Heartbeat Opera’s “Butterfly” is how well its artistic intentions dovetail with its limited means. The orchestra is cut down, but to an arrangement for harp and string quintet that recalls the mellifluous elegance of the original. The cast members are young but promising enough that you wouldn’t mind hearing them in a grander production and a bigger space.
-Russell Platt, The New Yorker
DIDO & AENEAS
A radical endeavor—less pint-sized grand opera than an appropriation of the genre for theatre of the black-box type. A cocktail party degenerates into surreal anarchy, with witches prancing about and the lovers copulating in a bathtub. ...Elegant, boisterous, and melancholy by turns. The scale of the show felt exactly right.
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
In Act 2 of Berkshire Theatre Group’s stirring production of a A Little Night Music, Madame Armfeldt proposes a toast: “To life! And to the only other reality — death!’’ Ethan Heard’s Night Music has a certain emotional eloquence and a lovely dreamlike quality, but Madame Armfeldt’s “other reality’’ is there, too, thrumming beneath the surface. When Baldwin and Soo team up for “Every Day a Little Death,’’ it seems to expand to an existential lament, and you can hear a pin drop inside the Colonial Theatre.
Gripping drama...under the clearly inspired guidance of Heartbeat co-artistic director Ethan Heard. A feat of virtuosity. A flat-out triumph.
BELLS ARE RINGING
The production uncorks and sustains a fizzy energy. Heard’s affection for this material is palpable, and he draws deft performances from his cast.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Nominated for five Berkshire Theatre Awards: Musical Production, Direction, Choreography, Set Design, and Costume Design
Shrewd and revelatory. Utterly irresistible. Smart and appealing.
THE CAT AND THE CANARY
The actors are superb in this exceptional production, but the real stars of the evening are composer and sound designer Steven Brush and director Ethan Heard. Heard’s cinematic direction is right on. A daring production, with stunning visual and aural effects and one hell of a cast – what more could you ask for in a theatrical performance?