LA Opera should take note of Pacific Opera Project. The company’s edgy productions explode popular perceptions of what opera is and how it should be performed. Under Shaw’s creative direction ... La Bohème has been superbly brought to life in a setting that is faithful to the original, as well as intimately and creatively wrought ... it is a production that sparkles with wit and infectious joie de vivre.
Shaw creates a professionally done musical that devours the audience’s attention and reels their emotions into the gruesome story.
Shaw’s hilarious interpretation, coupled with his cast’s evident talent for comedy, makes Cosi fan tutte a laugh-out-loud show that is as cathartic as it is entertaining.
Can you mount an opera like Rossini’s Barber of Seville on a shoestring budget and also squeeze all the laughs and coloratura out of every moment? If you are Josh Shaw, Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Company, you can. (He is)... on a mission to bring the fun of opera to the masses and it’s working.
-- LA Splash
Before I begin this review, let’s just get one thing straight. As of the moment I’m typing this, only two opera companies in all of the Greater Los Angeles area dare to perform opera as a living art: Long Beach Opera and the up-and-coming Pacific Opera Project.
-- Ted Ayala, Crescenta Valley Weekly
LA Opera should take note of Pacific Opera Project. The upstart company’s edgy productions explode popular perceptions of what opera is and how it should be performed. Pacific Opera Project takes this typically elite art form and strips it down to its barest essentials: stunning music and simple, enjoyable stories.
-- Barnaby Hughes, Stage and Cinema
Under Artistic Director Josh Shaw’s hands-on guidance, Pacific Opera Project has become L.A.’s most exciting new opera company. In just three years since POP began with the teeny-tiny production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, I sensed that this would be the company to make quality opera more accessible, approachable, and affordable. Exceeding my expectations, POP opened their biggest production yet last Friday with a Tosca that is more powerfully intimate and emotionally successful than many of the large-budget productions seen at major opera houses... Shaw’s behemoth production went off without a hitch... Talk about a miracle of logistics.
-- Tony Frankel, Stage and Cinema
Josh Shaw, POP's artistic director and its other founder, was responsible for a narratively straightforward and traditionally well-acted production. What is different is the level of intimacy. Opera on a conventional proscenium, even when the venue is far smaller than the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or nearly 4,000-seat Metropolitan Opera, is an art form of deceits. Oversized passion on stage is projected at a distance, and that distance protects an audience from direct exposure to emotive excess. The squeamish are afforded space to psychically remove themselves when need be. But forget all that in Rosenthal, where the singers and musicians are within spitting distance. They're aiming directly at you.
-- Mark Swed, LA Times
Shaw and Karr are clever in every way, putting their greatest energies into the operatic arts and doing amazing work with limited budgets. Pacific Opera Project is surely a company to watch and enjoy.
-- Georja Umano, LASplash.com
In a stroke of supreme savvy, Director Josh Shaw found a venue that is perfectly tailored to the subject and settings of Puccini’s 1900 opera: St. James Methodist Church in Pasadena. Each of the three acts takes place in different spaces within the church grounds, a decision that not only keeps the audience literally on their toes...this Toscarepresents one of the best values you’d ever expect to find in opera today, especially at this high level of production quality. Highly recommended.
-- David Maurer, LA Culture Spot
Can Shaw pull off a production without laughs? The answer is an unambiguous yes... This production makes a welcome contribution to our city’s celebration of the centenary of Britten’s birth. Notable for its absence of humor, The Turn of the Screw provides plenty of pause for thought, especially given Shaw’s brave and unflinching production of Britten’s operatic oddity.
-- Barnaby Hughes, Stage and Cinema
“The staging is yet another creative bit of genius from Josh Shaw, the raw creative force and driving factor... Abduction from the Sergalio is over-the-top homage to the series and its lead characters... And it works in a big way... a tribute to a series embedded in pop culture itself and exposure to live music, Mozart, singing, playing...it appears Shaw and his troupe has succeeded in their mission. I am not a fan, well, I'm not a fan of traditional opera; Pacific Opera Project-- I love.
And others like L.A. Opera are taking note and staging unconventional presentations of classics all around the country. Opera is reinventing, changing, and reaching for millennials. Shaw is bringing them in, hundreds at a time, along with the older opera crowd looking for something new and fresh... It's fun to find something new, something groundbreaking, an expansion and growth of art that's thriving; dreams being reached instead of dashed in a business of broken hopes. In five years the troupe will have their choice of stages and stars...”
“Don’t question it. The results are strangely glorious. And whether you are a rabid Star Trek fan or just versed enough to get by in pop culture, this zany and pitch-perfect opera triumphs in pure laugh-out-loud hilarity... the wordplay of the English translation was excellent. Josh Shaw, artistic director of POP, spearheaded this entertaining comedy and did a fabulous job in concept and execution of “bold” new vision. This version brings Mozart’s music, and opera as a genre, to a whole new audience, for which I am grateful... It is a shame so few shows were shown. Hopefully, publicity and audience enthusiasm will bring this fabulous and entertaining opera back into theatres soon!”
“This is not like any opera text you have ever heard and it generated laughs from the entire audience due to the comical and overly sexual nature of Shaw's new English libretto... The new libretto is heavy on laughs and is sure to quote nearly every catch phrase and iconic line from the much-loved sci-fi series. But not to worry if you are not a Trekker and have no knowledge of the inside references and jokes placed throughout the opera. The story is complete unto itself, so don't worry if you fail to understand the laughs from the rest of the Trekker-filled audience... sold-out shows certainly reflect the popularity of Star Trek as well as opera fans in Los Angeles. I am sorry to say there have been no additional performances added after this weekend, a fact I hope will soon be remedied by Josh Shaw and Stephen Karr as I know once word gets out, this marvelous production would continue to sell out for months at the El Portal or anywhere else it is staged. Live long and prosper!"
“...yet another highly innovative and fun production from the little opera company that could...they are achieving what many big opera companies are attempting to do — introduce opera to a wider audience... it is wonderful to see accomplished opera singers who can also parody these Starship Enterprise and Klingon characters and make them such fun, while delivering the intended musical beauty and congruency. Mozart would be proud... I hope that POP will be able to extend their performances in the near future so that more people can have the opportunity to discover this great company.”
The leap from Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" to a Star Trek television series spoof is a jump as long as outer space. But the comic conversion worked in the sense that Opera Piccola, in its fourth season, drew its largest audience ever, 700 people, selling out the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre...Opera often is spoofed, such as in cartoons and television shows, but in this "Abduction from the Seraglio," opera is used to spoof the Star Trek series, which turns 50 years old this year. But this show made fun of opera, too, adding to the fun.
"Opera and science fiction have always occupied distinct realms, but Mozart and "Star Trek" come together seamlessly in Festival Opera's new production of "Abduction from the Seraglio." Josh Shaw's riotously funny staging of the composer's 1782 singspiel, cast with familiar characters from the "Star Trek" franchise, seems tailor-made to bring Mozart lovers and Trekkies together under one roof -- and keep them laughing for nearly three hours... A few minutes into this witty mashup, it becomes clear that the director's concept works like a charm... Paired with Mozart's dazzling arias, duets and ensembles, it all sounds natural and eminently singable. The spoken dialogue has a freewheeling feel, with jokes, rim shots and colorful asides."
"Comic operas are rarely hilarious. A good Fledermaus or Barber of Seville might get you chuckling on occasion, but it won’t have you holding your head in your hands fighting bursts of uncontrollable laughter. Normally, The Abduction from the Seraglio wouldn’t either, but Josh Shaw’s libretto and staging, which turns the Mozart Singspiel into a cheesy Star Trek parody, does the trick."
“Pacific Opera Project proudly presented one of the most colorfully originally produced opera’s I have ever seen. It’s so funny, it’s so charming... The book and clever lyrics were written by Josh Shaw, who designed and directed this wonderful piece and staying true to spirit of the Mozart’s music but with fun and fantastic twists that had the audience laughing and applauding with each song throughout the entire operatic production... something the whole family will definitely enjoy! You must ‘warp speed’ over and find them whenever they are near to you.”
"Abduction from the Seraglio has shown once again that, with a dash of cleverness and a heaping helping of cheekiness, it’s possible to rekindle the relevance of centuries-old operas for new audiences...Is it possible that all the pop culture campiness made this production off-putting or irrelevant for the more (ahem)mature audiences? Not that I could see. Star Trek will be 50 years old next year, and it may pain many of the original Trekkies to realize it, but those silver-haired folks sitting in the expensive seats? That’s you."
"I’ll confess that I approached the Pacific Opera Project’s Star Trek- themed production of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio with some trepidation. Not because I’m an opera purist who believes that operatic interpretations are sacrosanct, and definitely not because I mistrust POP’s Artistic Director, Josh Shaw, whose inventive productions I have enjoyed. It really was about the fact that I’d never really watched Star Trek, in any of its incarnations, and assumed that I would be lost in a sea of inside jokes. I needn’t have worried... to be honest, Shaw’s effervescent adaptation is nearly as concerned with sending up operatic conventions as creating a Star Trek parody... Shaw’s witty adaptation is sleek, funny and filled with double entendres not allowable on 60’s network television. Almost more impressive is the singability of the lines. Though there are supertitles, one rarely needs to consult them. A tribute to the cast’s diction as well.
In short: beam yourself there, or fly (at Warp 5 speed) but do not miss the last two performances in Oakland Calif on August 8th & 9th! For those who have never before attended a live opera and feel they would never "understand" or appreciate the loooong evening of confusing plots and serious music, this uniquely fun production is THE perfect vehicle for a first-time experience. The music is all Mozart's, and the extreme vocal techniques required by the featured soloists are still just as daunting - it's just that they also have to remember "different" words, and while singing their technically demanding arias they have to also manage to embody totally iconic, culturally recognizable Star Trek characters, and anjoy making the audience laugh while not "losing it" themselves, vocally, in this outragiously fun farce. And they succeeded on all fronts! Librettist/Stage Director Josh Shaw is a complete genius, for coming up with this transformation, but one also can't possibly imagine this production and concept ever succeeding without tenor Brian Cheney's totally over-the-top, perfect parody of Willam Shatner's original version of Captain Kirk (named Captain James T Belmonte in this Mozart opera version).
If you Photoshop hipster glasses on Giacomo Puccini for your company’s logo — as Pacific Opera Project did — you’d better be able to do him justice when you produce his operas... director Josh Shaw’s sets reflect the original setting of Rome in 1800. Shaw's twist is that each act utilizes a different part of Pasadena's St. James Methodist Church. Act 1, set in a church, puts the audience in the pews. When the clergy and choristers march up the aisles to the altar, you might feel guilty not kneeling or singing yourself. In this milieu, Baron Scarpia’s plans to seduce Tosca and murder her lover, Cavaradossi, seem especially blasphemous... Opera newbies will find this production effective and thought-provoking, while veterans who think they’ve sat through one too many Toscasshould come to see and hear Blackwell and Cheney from a few rows away.
-- Christian Herzog, LA Weekly
One of the best moments of the production comes at the end of the first act when director/set designer Josh Shaw uses the cast of children choristers, nuns and other church member roles to surround the audience in the final musical number. While holding lit candles, this mass of singers engulfs the sanctuary with glorious sounds and the smell of incense while creating a visual spectacle to be remembered... this production of Tosca by the Pacific Opera Project shows that great, affordable opera is alive and well in the Los Angeles area.
-- Humberto Capiro, Living Out Loud LA
When Francesco Cavalli wrote his opera “La Calisto” 363 years ago, he wasn’t thinking about how it would play in Los Angeles. So explain, then, how that opera... is so modern, so delightful, so sexually ambiguous, and still so true to the early baroque music of Cavalli. Much of that credit must go to Josh Shaw, who has created in Pacific Opera Project a sharp and talented troupe that can handle both the complex music from the 17th century and the just-as-daunting performance requirements that include slides, onstage bathrooms, swings, a playground carousel and more.
That Shaw managed to bring all these elements together is an accomplishment in itself. But that he manages to tell the story of “La Calisto” with sometimes rude, always passionate good humor, and with some really great singing, is a tribute to his company...
--John Farrell, Los Angeles Daily News
...in a welcome return to the crude and edgy humor that marked POP’s early successes, Artistic Director Josh Shaw has used slangy supertitles, flushing toilets, and toy guns to considerable comic effect. Moreover, his playground set comes replete with swings, teeter-totter, merry-go-round, slide, and ball pit à la Chuck E. Cheese’s... POP has compellingly shown that baroque opera still has the power to enthrall and captivate audiences.
-- Barnaby Hughes, Stage and Cinema
With The Turn of the Screw, POP seals its place as a welcome addition to Los Angeles-area music community, reaffirming that "size isn't everything" and that it deserves to be judged as a peer alongside larger and longer established groups. The committed effort and inventiveness invested by all concerned in this production returns ample and lingering musical and dramatic satisfaction. Wider attention should be paid to POP and these performers in future.
-- George Wallace, A Fool in the Forrest
Gaudy, flashy and with eye-popping colors, the over-the-top visuals of Pacific Opera Project’s The Mikado are the Technicolor herald of a new cultural gun in town... the idea that in 2013 a new opera company barely two years old can, on a shoestring budget, manage to sell out its performances is indeed encouraging news for the local arts scene. Josh Shaw and Musical Director Stephen Karr have achieved something important: Creating accessible opera, updated in often surprising ways, that does not cost much more than the price of a movie ticket.
-- David Maurer, LA Culture Spot
Artistic Director Josh Shaw and Music Director Stephen Karr have refined their recipe of equal partsdelight and trenchant stylization. Pacific Opera Project’s future will be intriguing to watch. Southern California is that much richer for the company’s presence... it’s clear that Pacific Opera Project has laid solid foundations for continued growth. The company’s winning formula of budget-wise productions mounted with spare rehearsal time – paired with mostly stellar talent and production values (all while not taking itself too seriously) has attracted sold out performances during its brief two-year existence.
-- R. Daniel Foster, Examiner.com