A Rich Confection

. December 17, 2019.
Opera singer Lindsey Anderson, a dramatic mezzo-soprano, brings a happy, humorous persona to the stage as Julia Child in Bon Appétit!
Opera singer Lindsey Anderson, a dramatic mezzo-soprano, brings a happy, humorous persona to the stage as Julia Child in Bon Appétit!

Cake, Julia Child and The Toledo Opera collide in Bon Appétit!

Somewhere in Traverse City, Michigan, opera singer Lindsey Anderson is spending an icy December weekend baking Christmas cookies, like she has many times in the past. But this year, her tradition is a little different. While the recipes are the same, Anderson is incorporating a new element into her routine: singing. Lots and lots of singing.

And it’s not just for fun.

As Anderson sings and swirls around her kitchen— grabbing whisks, beating eggs, rolling dough, and icing sugar cookies— she preparing for her role in the Toledo Opera’s performance of Bon Appétit!. The one-woman operetta, inspired by Julia Child, will be served up to her audience at Registry Bistro on Monday, January 13.

A piece of cake

On the surface, American composer Lee Hoib’s Bon Appétit! is a deceptively simple recipe. The 25-minute production feels more like an episode of Child’s seminal television program, The French Chef, than it does a traditional opera.

Instead of the tragedies and triumphs typical of the genre, Bon Appétit! follows the highs and lows of cake baking.

The result? A short and sweet performance for the audience and a complicated and impressive endurance test for Anderson, the sole performer in the Opera’s intimate production.

“I will be using real ingredients and kitchen equipment,” explains Anderson. “So it’s a cool experience for the audience to see someone singing this complex music while also letting their humor shine through and whisking eggs into meringue all at the same time.”

Indeed, Anderson will be working with more than just props during the performance, singing as she prepares a classic Julia Child chocolate cake. Select ticket holders will enjoy a special Child-inspired dinner prepared by Registry’s Chef Erika Rapp. Afterward, the entire audience will partake in Anderson’s cake.

A magical experience

Despite the production’s inherent challenge of singing and baking, Anderson explains that the cake-baking is fairly straight-froward. Instead, it’s Hoib’s music, which leans in on Child’s trademark sing-song voice, that presents the most significant difficulty.

“The music is very natural with her speech, but it’s not a melody that sticks in your head, so the rhythms and melodies take some work to get into your brain,” adding that the score feels organic. “It doesn’t feel [organic] when you learn it, but it comes off that way when prepared. It’s probably one of the more challenging roles I’ve ever done. Not vocally, but in terms of brainpower. It requires a lot of endurance.”

Fortunately, Anderson is well-practiced for the role, performing it a few dozen times, mostly for children in community outreach programs.

“It was a cool way to introduce children to the opera, but I am excited about an adult audience,” says Anderson. “This piece lends itself to feeding off the audience. I think that performing for a group of adults who are also enjoying a meal will be quite a magical experience.”

The Toledo Opera presents ‘Bon Appétit!’ on Monday, January 13 at The Registry Bistro Ballroom, located in the Secor Building.

A cash bar opens at 6pm. Dinner at 6:30pm. Performance at 8pm, doors at 7:30pm.
$150 for the dinner package, which includes Champagne, dinner, the performance and dessert. $40 for Champagne, the performance and dessert.
Toledo Opera, 419-255-SING (7564) | Toledoopera.org