Asheville Lyric Opera ends its season of staged productions in Diana Wortham Theatre on a high note with the beloved Sound of Music, its themes of love for family, for place, and for art finding a resounding and sympathetic resonance in this mountain town. The synergy generated by Stage Director Kristen Hedberg, Conductor Vance Reese with Concertmaster Corine Brouwer, and a sterling cast was evident at every turn in a show that never faltered in its pacing, dramatic nuance, comic bits, clear diction, or wise use of the stage space. Those familiar only with the 1965 film of this 1959 musical by Rogers and Hammerstein on a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse will be surprised by a few “new” tunes and a different context for some others. Above all, what ensured the success of this show was the heart-felt, high quality of the singing.
The set design by Julie K. Ross of Scenery Concepts, Inc. gave us a magnificent, sweeping view of the Austrian Alps with an eye to meticulous detail in the interior spaces (i.e., the use of the traditional “Maria Theresa yellow” on the walls of the Von Trapp home). Choreography by Collette Boudreaux brought ensemble numbers to life with an arsenal of movements and gestures we’ve come to associate with these songs. The garden pas de deux with Boudreaux as Liesl and Paul Thiemann as Rolf, and the central-European Ländler danced by Horton and first Kimbrough, then Flores were two such charming numbers.
Amanda Horton was magnificent as Maria Rainer, with Roberto Flores as Captain Georg von Trapp, her melodious co-star excelling especially in “Edelweiss.” Simone Vigilante as Mother Abbess was the dominant voice at the end of each act, zealously singing the climactic “Climb Every Mountain” with some audible strain. Eric Martinez was the irrepressible Max Detweiler, while Karen Svites made Baroness Elsa Schraeder into a likeable character.
The experienced voices were evident in the company of Von Trapp’s children — Boudreaux as Liesl (older than sixteen-going-on seventeen), Hannah Grady (Louisa), Lindsay Jewel Salvati (Brigitta), Anna-Kate Self (Marta), Avalon Angel (Gretl), Milo Norlin (Friedrich), and Carl Kimbrough (Kurt). The blending of these voices was remarkable and gratifying to hear, and while each separately and all together were a joy to watch, the show’s success did not hinge on this cuteness factor alone.
Rounding out the cast was an affable trio of nuns — Andrea Blough (Sister Margaretta/Chorus Master), Christine McClure (Sister Sophia), and Anjie Grady (Sister Berthe). House servants were Jonathan Cobrda as Franz and Leigh Ann Singleton as Frau Schmidt. Countering all the sweetness and light were Third Reich characters Nikolas Hedberg (Herr Zeller) and John Garner (Admiral von Schreiber).