We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Elena (Anna Farysej)
New York is blessed with three fine music schools, each of which provides splendid opportunities for opera lovers.  The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, under the artistic direction of Dona D. Vaughn, presented a fine program of scenes from four very different operas.  The program demonstrated the depth and breadth of talent in every voice range and several different styles; it will be repeated Sunday at 2:30.

This collection of gems was entitled "Love and Other Mistakes"; but believe us when we tell you that the only mistake would be missing it.  The opening scene represented serious romantic courtship with Cupid himself putting in an appearance.  Gluck is perhaps better known for his Orfeo but, if this scene is representative of his Paride ed Elena, the latter deserves a full production.  It is a scene of Paris' courtship of the beautiful Helen and soprano Anna Farysej had the physical and vocal beauty for the role.  Beautifully gowned in apricot and gold, her bright soprano was perfect for the woman being earnestly courted by Paris, the excellent mezzo Elsa Quéron.  Cupid was well sung by Aine Hakamatsuka.  Piano and harpsichord were joined by cellist Patrick Hopkins.

The second scene was Hindemith's Sancta Susanna, a strange piece about religious devotion corrupted by profane lust.  The libretto by August Stramm was as disturbing as the music.  The set consisted of a red drape with a large gold Christ on the Cross.  Mezzo Helena Brown with her stunningly large round sound was Sister Klementia, witness to the decompensation of Susanna, well sung by soprano Kerstin Bauer.  There are no arias and no melodies but the music is held together by a motif repeated in different keys.

Papa Buonafede (Tobias Klassen) tied in knots
The third scene was from Joseph Haydn's Il Mondo della luna and the libretto by Carlo Goldoni was right out of the commedia del'arte tradition in which wily servants outwit an old man who is an obstacle to young love.  In this case, a father has two daughters who wish to marry; the trickery involved a sleeping potion and papa's being convinced that he was visiting the moon in which everyone spoke a different language and observed different customs, including of course unchaperoned visits between the daughters and their lovers.  There were sight gags galore, wonderful tuneful music, colorful sets and costumes.  The excellent singers were Tobias Klassen as Papa Buonafede, Stephen Steffens and Lyndon England as the suitors, Julia Mendelsohn and Gyu Yeo Shim as the daughters, and Christopher Lilley and Yingying Liu as the wily servants who posed as King and Queen bearing toilet plungers and toilet brushes as scepters.  You get the picture.

The final scene was Three Sisters who are not Sisters--Ned Rorem's setting of a text by Gertrude Stein.  The story had something to do with a murder game and was totally incomprehensible but made into quite a lark by clever staging.  Every singer wore the same costume of a neon pink wig, a moustache, a striped tee-shirt and jeans with suspenders.  The set comprised a wall with five doors through which the five cast members and also the chorus emerged and disappeared, bearing guns and knives.  Pure nonsense but fun to watch since the staging by Richard Gammon was so effective.  Mr. Gammon used a great deal of body movement in all of the works and if the singers did not study dance they gave the impression that they had.  Hannah DeBlock, Brittany Nickell, Yajie Chen, Andrew Zimmermann and Devon Morin were the murderers/victims.  Who could say?

Marcello Cormio conducted the evening, Carolyn Mraz designed the colorful sets and Barbara Samuels designed the effective lighting.  The dazzling costumes were designed by Jonathan Knipscher.  The audience had a swell time and so will you!

© meche kroop

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