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.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Kyle Erdos-Knapp and Antoni Mendezona
Ian McEuen, Adam Cannedy, and Cameron Smith
Sarah Best, Natalie Ballenger and Sarah Mossman
 Light Opera of New York is presenting Victor Herbert's The Only Girl at the Thalia Theater of Symphony Space this weekend.  The size and enthusiasm of the audience last night testifies to the viability of LOONY's mission.

Victor Herbert was a seminal figure in the world of music in the 20th c. He not only composed but also conducted, wrote lyrics and played the cello.  Moreover, he founded ASCAP with John Philip Sousa.  He deserves to be remembered!

The Only Girl debuted on Broadway in 1914 when Europe was at war. Escapist musical comedies were all the rage. Director Michael Phillips has adapted the work, whose original book and lyrics were by Henry Blossom, based on a Frank Mandel play Our Wives.

Possibly because costumes from 100 years ago might be too costly to construct or rent, or because the goal was to make the show more relevant, the period has been updated to the 1950's. Costume Designer Bettina Bierly has given the work a spiffy look and the set (no credit in program) looks the way one would expect a lyricist's New York apartment to look.

The plot reminds one of a showbiz comedy of days of yore. A lyricist cannot find a composer with whom to work on his next show. He hears wonderful music coming from next door and learns that it was composed by a woman. The two are wary of one another; he has contempt for women and she is feisty-- and in no way willing to be subservient. Eventually they come to appreciate each other after a showdown.

Tenor Kyle Erdos-Knapp made a fine Kim, the lyricist, especially when he sat at the piano and sang a song interpolated from Herbert's 1905 musical Miss Dolly Dollars, in which he compares women to cigars. As Ruth, the composer next door, Antoni Mendezona used her fine soprano in a winning way, making us cheer for her taming of Kim.

Auxiliary characters included Kim's friends and associates--the agent Martin who seems not to get the jokes, portrayed by tenor Ian McEuen; the philandering producer Blake, portrayed by baritone Adam Cannedy; and scenic designer Andrew, portrayed by tenor Cameron Smith. Their trio "When You're Wearing the Ball and Chain" was amusing.

On the female side we had the very funny loud-mouth Patsy (soprano Natalie Ballenger), the sardonic chorine Jane (mezzo Sarah Best) and aspiring actress Renée (soprano Sarah Mossman). The three women delighted us with "Why Should We Stay at Home and Sew". All the voices were good and the roles well-cast. Happily, they were unamplified.

Gerald Steichen conducted from the keyboard and the chamber orchestra comprised a string quartet, augmented by bass, percussion, flute, clarinet, oboe and French horn. They handled the spritely tunes with panache.

LOONY fortunately records their productions, with a little help from their friends.  So, if you can't snag a ticket for today's two performances (2:00 and 7:30) you may be able to get a CD in the future.

(c) meche kroop

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