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Paula Williams
Opera Stage Director
  Press Quotes

120 Bennett Ave. #5H
New York, NY 10033
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Press Quotes

PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Metropolitan Opera
"And it's not necessarily the new productions and the starry casts that deliver the goods: the highlight of my opera-going season was the masterly performance of Jonathan Miller's production of Debussy's haunting Pelléas et Mélisande, conducted by Simon Rattle with moving, persuasively human performances from the entire cast."
--Isherwood, Charles, The New York Times, May 19, 2011


KÁT'A KABANOVÁ, Chicago Lyric Opera
"Lyric's Kát'a Kabanová soars on Karita Mattila's gripping portrayal"
--John von Rhein, Tribune Critic, November 24, 2009|


FALSTAFF, Pittsburgh Opera
Headline: "Flirtatious 'Falstaff' has the audience swooning"
"Laughter rang out repeatedly Saturday night at the Benedum Center, Downtown, when Pittsburgh Opera presented the first of four performances of Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff.
The production features a fabulous portrayal of the title role by baritone Mark Delavan, who conveyed dimensions of his character that went far beyond the immensity of his girth. In addition, Paula Williams' staging was full of perceptive comic touches as Falstaff is repeatedly skewered in his attempt to seduce two of the merry wives of Windsor. Williams was equally responsive to sincere young love that is Verdi's foil to Falstaff's absurd machinations."
--Mark Kanny, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Monday, October 26, 2009


SUSANNAH, Arizona Opera
"Arizona Opera ended its 2006/07 season with a tightly-knit, well-tuned presentation of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. Perhaps the outstanding contribution to the production was Paula Williams's direction. She moved the chorus about the stage with ease, whether they represented the townspeople at an evening gathering of song and square dancing or had them as church goers pleading to the Lord to save them from the wages of sin. She gave the audience the feeling that it was watching the entire New Hope Valley community acting as one against the sinner Susannah. The director also helped to transmit the same dramatic intent to the featured and principal players, allowing them to build their portrayals with vocal stamina and security."
-- Nicholas del Vecchio, Seen and Heard International Opera Review, April 28, 2007


TOSCA, Metropolitan Opera
"Tosca seemed vital again. And in this venerable, twice-told production, that is news indeed."
-- Anne Midgette, The New York Times, October 31, 2006


TOSCA, Pittsburgh Opera
"Review: Pittsburgh Opera stages searing, emotional Tosca ... Pittsburgh Opera offered its second magnificent production of Italian opera this season when the power of Tosca filled Downtown's Benedum Center on Saturday night. Thrilling singing, insightful conducting and vibrant staging fulfilled the potential of Giacomo Puccini's intensely dramatic masterpiece. The staging was excellent, full of attentive and significant details that are well-coordinated with the musical action."
-- Mark Kanny, Tribune-Reiview Classical Music Critic, Monday, April 3, 2006


KÁT'A KABANOVÁ, Metropolitan Opera
"The Met's December 17 revival of the 1991 production of Kát'a Kabanová proved pretty much a triumph across the board ... Director Paula Williams, lucky in having three leading ladies commanding extremely expressive stage movement, crafted a fine, moving show..."
-- David Shengold, Opera News, March 2005


PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Metropolitan Opera
"In this season's revival -- thanks to the principal's lightness and depth, and to Paula Williams' equally lucid, sensitive recreation of the staging -- the production's points of relevance, while still debatable, emerged more clearly than before."
-- Opera News, January 2001


XERXES, Wolf Trap Opera
"Wolf Trap's Dynamic Xerxes: A Labyrinth to Lose Oneself In ... Opera fans convinced that they're allergic to baroque opera or to updated 'concept' productions should hasten to experience the beauties the Wolf Trap Opera Company has wrought in Handel's Xerxes ... Under Allen Hahn's evocative lighting, and on an airy white-box set (designed by Carol Bailey, who also created the witty, dead-on-appropriate jumble of haute-couture, 20th-century costumes), director Paula Williams has staged her cast with striking visual flair. The tangle of rivalries -- sibling and romantic -- that forms the plot of Xerxes would require a lengthy CliffsNotes to unravel. But Williams ensures that every character has a clear trajectory, every line of text makes good emotional sense, and the opera's daring mix of heroic tragedy and broad comedy plays with all the ironic inevitability of real life."
-- Joe Banno, The Washington Post, 2002

"Even folks ordinarily disinclined to tolerate trendy, updated stagings may have been disarmed by Wolf Trap Opera's strongly cast production of Handel's Serse (July 21). Director Paula Williams and scenic and costume designer Carol Bailey took this tale of the fifth-century (B.C.) Persian king with a tree-fetish and slipped it smoothly into a 1940s (A.D.) milieu, country unspecified, where all the women wore gloves and prim hats, the men dapper suits. The place was still clearly recognizable as a royal court, where a bored, prancing monarch played one-upmanship with his brother, and where the rest of the original plot's complexities -- a smorgasbord of human relations at cross-purposes -- unfolded engagingly ... The young cast was clearly having a ball with all of director Paula Williams's imaginative ideas; the acting had admirable polish and panache (not to mention passion, as when Arsamene and Romilda went at it under a table, arms and legs flying). All of the visual fun wouldn't have been worth a da capo, of course, if the singing hadn't been so assured and stylish. The music poured out from everyone with considerable expressive flourish; there wasn't an overly studied note all night. Embellishments, where appropriate, were added sensibly and colorfully."
-- Tim Smith, Opera News, December 2002


"Barber of Seville masterful ... That's why, even with the post-modern set (by John Conklin, influenced by Rene Magritte), it was the superb cohesiveness and perfectly timed slapstick of Earle Patriarco (Figaro), Paul Austin Kelly (Count Almaviva), Kevin Glavin (Bartolo), and Paula Rasmussen (Rosina) that updated the opera. No ossified art form this, it was a hilarious example of contemporary entertainment. I have heard better singers, but never a group with such accord. Stage Director Paula Williams gets credit here as well..."
-- Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette, October 15, 2003

"Pittsburgh Opera Shines in season opening Barber of Seville ... Laughter reigns at the Benedum Center this week, as Pittsburgh Opera opens its season with a brilliant production of The Barber of Seville"
-- Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune, October 13, 2003


LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music

"A nearly flawless 'Marriage' ... Amid the intrigue, mistaken identities, cross dressing and misplaced punches in Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro performed at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Thursday night, there was also the element of disbelief -- that this was a student production ... In her Cincinnati debut, guest director Paula Williams handled comedic touches deftly and staged with imagination."
-- Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer, February 16, 2003


MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Hawaii Opera Theater
"Butterfly caps Hawaii opera season with elegance ... Hawaii Opera theatre's heartrending production of Madama Butterfly caps off one of the company's finest seasons...It is also the third of this season's three productions in which stage direction has been paramount to the opera's success. Not to take anything away from the singers, but Paula Williams understated direction allowed the opera's inherent pathos to unfold at its own pace, with elegant grace notes of staging taking on added poignancy as a result."
-- Gregory Shepherd, The Honolulu Advertiser, February 27, 2000


NORMA, Hawaii Opera Theater
"'Superwoman' lives through Norma ... Stage director Paula Williams managed to make the opera's plot seem almost perfectly sensible, no mean feat, by adding numerous details such as the chorus' handling of swords, and by highlighting interactions, such as Norma's silent plea and Oroveso's rejection in the final scene ... Williams paced her staging beautifully, matching movements to the music and to the internal drama, using rare moments of rapid movement for emphasis. Modern understanding of Druid rites remains sketchy, but Williams' version appears both believable and coherent."
-- Ruth O. Bingham, Star-Bulletin, February 1999


ROMÉO ET JULIETTE, Hawaii Opera Theater
"HOT's Roméo et Juliette not to be missed ... Miraculously, Hawaii Opera Theatre has found such leads in Jami Rodgers (Juliette) and Kevin Anderson (Romeo). Its is a performance not to be missed ... Stage director Paula Williams gave Roméo et Juliette a classical interpretation, contributing numerous effective touches. To mention only a few, Williams worked without a curtain, substituting supernumeraries to transform one scene or act into another; the segue from the Prologue to Act I was particularly entrancing...she wove the theme of the red rose throughout, simultaneously symbolizing bloody feud, passionate eternal love and ephemerality of life."
-- Ruth O. Bingham, Star Bulletin, January 1998


THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Skylight Opera Theater
"In Skylight's Seville love makes life a cartoon ... A Barber of Seville a la Hanna-Barbera opened the Skylight Opera Theatre's 41st season. Carol Bailey confected sets in candy-store colors. A royal blue upright piano matches the furniture, which pops out against flat backdrops in bright magenta or canary yellow...The message is: real people caught in a cartoon world ... Given the opera, that makes sense. Director Paula Williams and her well-cast singing actors make it stick. Williams et al. are not imposing anything on Rossini, who composed a cartoon Seville in which love makes fools of everyone."
-- Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1999

  File updated: 08/10/11, 03:00 PM EDT
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