Working to prerecorded music of some of the world's greatest operatic performances, the highly trained manipulators of the New England Marionette Opera , working 11 feet above the stage, deftly carry their characters through a growing repertoire of opera works.
Started in 1992, by then newspaper publisher Edward R. Leach, the New England Marionette Opera now performs both at home and at guest appearances in venues throughout the world.
The five-year old company features two Puccini icons, La Bohème and Madame Butterfly, and is adding Tosca in 1997. It was the first company to ever present Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and its holiday production of Amahl and the Night Visitors has already become a major New England tradition. Also in its repertoire are Carmen, Macbeth (Verdi), and The Barber of Seville.
The company has a separate division called OK (Opera for Kids) Opera which currently has Mozart's Magic Fantasy, A Journey Through Mozart's Magic Flute in its repertoire.
Edward R. (Ted) Leach, founder of the New England Marionette Opera, gets lots of advice from some of the La Bohème cast.
The traveling setup for the New England Marionette Opera is thought to be the largest of its kind in the world with a pair of twin bridges stretching 24 feet across the stage and standing 15 feet tall.
The company began its first tour early in 1996, with The Barber of Seville which was presented at the Bermuda Festival for the Arts in Hamilton, Bermuda.
English translations of foreign language operas are projected on a screen above the stage using the theatre's unique TransTitles® video projection. All marionettes are crafted in the New England Marionette Opera shops as are all controls, costumes and sets.
Because of the size of the marionettes, viewing must be limited to between 2 - 2 1/4 hours and this generally means that operas must be shortened. Hundreds of hours go into this operation as the music is expertly reduced in a totally seamless mix. Moving back and forth with cassettes and DAT machines, the final product eventually emerges and is then made into the company's own set of performance compact discs.
The New England Marionette Opera generally performs a large schedule at home in the elegant Marionette Theatre in Peterborough, N.H. Peterborough is less than 1 1/2 hours from downtown Boston, located in the Currier and Ives corner of the State known as the Monadnock Region.
Peterborough has long been a hub for the arts in New England. In addition to the New England Marionette Opera, it is also the home of Monadnock Music, the Peterborough Players and the MacDowell Colony.
A very important part of the company is that a portion of the ticket proceeds from EVERY home performance goes into their Environmental Echo program which collects the funds and, at the conclusion of the season, disperses them to two environmental organizations, The Harris Center in Hancock, NH and to Defenders of Wildlife, in Washington, DC.