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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Manhattan School of Music Summer Voice Festival--the cast of "NINE"
Winner of 5 Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 1982, Nine stared Raul Julia and was directed by Tommy Tune.  It was born in a workshop in 1973, birthed by Maury Yeston who was ultimately responsible for the clever lyrics and tuneful music.  The book was written by Arthur Kopit.  The show was revived in 2003 with Antonio Banderas in the title role.

The book is based on the Federico Fellini film 8 1/2, a semi-autobiographical account of the midlife crisis of a famous Italian film director who has signed a contract for a film and is suffering from a dearth of ideas.  He is quite the womanizer and his marriage is consequently suffering.

Because of the dozens of roles for women this seemed to be a good choice for MSM's Summer Voice Festival, co-directed by Neil Rosenshein and Elizabeth Young.  The young performers appear to have put a lot of work into the production which was wonderful light summer entertainment.  Happily, one could hear natural healthy young voices unamplified, a great advantage and much to our liking.

The show was beautifully directed by the talented Bill Fabris who negotiated the melding of reality, memory, dream and fantasy; likewise he provided the simple but effective choreography.  The only set elements were a podium from which the lead Guido Contini, in the stunning opening scene, conducts the voices of the women in his life.  There was a sparkly rear-curtain as backdrop and some evocative lighting by Evan Roby.  Appropriate period (1960's) costumes were by Colleen Durham.

Musical Direction was by Dan Gettinger who played the piano score, augmented by percussion, drums and harp.  And what music he made!  The standout number was "A Man Like You/Unusual Way" a duet for Guido (Robert Erlichmann) and his muse Claudia (Samantha Williams).  "Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian" was nicely sung by Lieke van den Broek as Sarraghina.

"The Script/Folies Bergeres" allowed Alexandra Clint to shine as Lilliane La Fleur.  Erica Reynolds as Luisa, Guido's wife, was convincing in "My Husband Makes Movies".  As Carla, Guido's mistress, Viktoria Falcone had a sexy number "A Call from the Vatican", which brought down the house.  Hannah DeBlock portrayed Guido's mother and Brenna Feeney portrayed Our Lady of the Spa; she was the only character not costumed in black but rather in a stunning white classical garment.

Admittedly, there is no one around like Raul Julia and Antonio Banderas; but we wished Mr. Erlichmann had put a little more oomph into Guido's character; although he is in crisis we needed to see something of the charm underneath that would have made all these women fall under his spell and made us in the audience care about him.

We also wanted more vocal projection from the entire cast.  The lyrics to those marvelous songs deserved better diction.

Next Monday and Tuesday there will be further performances and we are confident that you will enjoy yourself.  Some of the roles are double-cast but the music will be the same!

© meche kroop

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