Leading off Opera Manhattan's triple bill of one act operas was the 1959 solo piece by Francis Poulenc entitled La Voix Humaine, starring lustrous voiced soprano Kala Maxym as an abandoned woman speaking on the phone with her ex-lover. The libretto, based on a 1930 play by Jean Cocteau, is a monologue in which a woman pretends at first that she has been out for the evening and is feeling fine-- but we soon learn that she is completely distraught following a suicide attempt. Ms. Maxym convincingly portrays every shade of emotion in the piece with stunning vocalism, convincing acting and exquisite French diction. We may not have fallen in love with Poulenc's music but we were dazzled by her performance which built to a fine climax as the woman's shaky composure unraveled. The piece was directed by Sarah Frazer and Tristan Cano performed the piano score.
Just as "Elle" was undone by love, Madame Flora in Menotti's 1946 work The Medium was undone by greed, alcohol and guilt.
For years she has run phony seances and taken money from believers desperate to contact their dearly departed loved ones. To this purpose she has enlisted the services of her daughter Monica and a mute Hungarian gypsy boy named Toby whom she rescued from the streets. While under the influence she begins to hallucinate the "ghosts" and blames Toby. She becomes fearful and then hysterical with tragic results. Director John Schenkel has staged this opera simply but imaginatively while Kathryn Olander did justice to the piano score. Elizabeth Moulton was vocally and dramatically successful in the contralto role and sang a moving "Afraid, am I afraid?". Soprano Megan Candio was equally fine as Monica and delighted the ear with "Monica's Waltz" and "Black Swan" in which Ms. Moulton's voice harmonized to great advantage. Soprano Sheba Buckley sang the role of Mrs. Gobineau with fine lyricism and was quite convincing as a woman grieving a baby she lost long long ago. Baritone Greg Kass portrayed the husband effectively but one was left wondering about the verissimilitude of an interracial couple in that epoch. Mezzo Anna Petrie was excellent as Mrs. Nolan who tries to contact her daughter and is so ready to believe the "ghost" that Monica creates. In the non-speaking role of Toby, Parker Scott acted well but appeared at least 20 years too old for the part as much as he tried to act like a youth.
The causes of Suor Angelica's decompensation in the eponymous 1918 opera by Puccini (libretto by Forzano) are family and society. Having disgraced her aristocratic family by bearing a child without benefit of matrimony, the poor young woman had been hustled off to a convent to repent for the rest of her life. Desperate for some family contact, she becomes overjoyed when learning that her aunt has come to see her. But the aunt hasn't come for a pleasant visit; she has come to get Angelica to sign over her financial assets. Angelica craves news about her young son and is told he has died. As one can imagine the news is devastating. Soprano Kristi Bulot succeeds admirably in the role whereas Anna Yelizarova falters as La Principessa, a contralto role. Dramatically, in spite of her youth, she effectively portrays an elderly woman struggling with a cane to hold herself aristocratically erect; but she seems to have artificially darkened her voice. All of the nuns sang well but at times reminded one more of sorority sisters. We were especially moved by the sweet voiced Elana Gleason who portrayed Sister Genovieffa who missed her life as a shepherdess. Italian diction was quite good. Sarah Fraser directed and Tristan Cano accompanied at the piano.
Opera Manhattan excels at giving singers an opportunity to add new roles to their repertoire and also at giving the audience an opportunity to get "up close and personal". St. Clement's Church has a fine theater and we urge you to attend the remaining performances and to fill it up.
(c) meche kroop