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, August 29, 2015


Elizabeth Bouk, Marie Masters, Christopher Lilley, Marianne Farrell and Min Gu Yeo

Hiram Titus' music is new to us, and we will begin by saying that we yearn to hear more of his instrumental music. As performed by the excellent Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Christopher Fecteau, Artistic Director and Founder of Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, it made quite an impression. We can surely understand why Maestro Fecteau chose to conduct last night. The music is very lush in its orchestration and varied in its moods--one might call it colorful and dramatic. We were not surprised to learn that Mr. Titus composes for movies.

That being said, we would not be in a hurry to hear any more of his operas. We will say that there were several lovely arias in his 1980 opera Rosina. In the first act, the character Cherubino sings a lovely ballad accompanied by guitar (Matheus Souza) which led into a duet with Rosina, also quite lovely. And in Act II, Count Almaviva and Cherubino sang a duet about women that we enjoyed.

Nonetheless, the conversational dialogue is, well, excessively prosaic. Barbara Field's libretto does not lend itself to a singable vocal line.  Part of the problem lies in the rhythm of the English language. One thinks of the few exceptions--Shakespeare, Sondheim, W.S. Gilbert.

In spite of this handicap, the cast performed well. The story is invented but found its way into Dell'Arte Ensemble's Beaumarchais theme by virtue of its dealing with characters invented by the 18th c. polymath, who wrote the trio of plays which inspired Rossini, Paisiello, Rossini and others.

Several years have passed since Cherubino was sent off to be an officer in the Count's regiment. He returned to Seville and eloped with the Countess who was fed up with the Count's philandering. As the opera opens the couple is living in poverty in Madrid with Cherubino trying to sell his paintings. They have a newborn and are in love and happy, troubled only by the aggressive landlady. The Count comes to Madrid to find Rosina, along with his latest conquest, the very young Amparo. Rosina (the Countess) must choose between the two men--or must she? Sometimes women must choose their own pathway, even in the 18th c.

As the Countess (Rosina), soprano Marie Masters made a fine showing with her ample voice and warmth. We remember her well from last year's Falstaff as Mrs. Ford. As Cherubino, tenor Christopher S. Lilley impressed us with his fine singing and acting. His Cherubino was a real charmer! We recall enjoying his performances at Manhattan School of Music on several occasions.

As Pilar, the aggressive landlady, mezzo-soprano Kerry Gotschall added greatly to the comic relief. Sporting a moustache (!) and clumping around the stage, she created a marvelous character. In Act I, she had some great lines--"The rent's been spent". The scene in Act II where she virtually attacks the blindfolded Mendoza, Cherubino's art dealer, was a real hoot. He had come to seduce Rosina who was playing a trick on him by substituting Pilar. 

If the opening scene referenced Act I of La Boheme, this scene suggested the final act of Nozze di Figaro! The art dealer was well performed by Korland Simmons who produced some rich laughter in his sneezing scene which reminded us of the sneezing scene in the Paisiello Barber.

As Count Almaviva, Min Gu Yeo's superlative baritone was hampered by a strong accent that made much of his dialect incomprehensible. English is sufficiently difficult to sing when it is one's native language! He was also made to disguise himself with a very silly moustache and cast opposite a woman who was more than a head taller than he--his new mistress Amparo. It felt awkward not knowing whether this was done intentionally for laughs or not.

As Amparo, we really liked Elizabeth Bouk, whose Komponist in Utopia Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos we recently reviewed. Her mezzo-soprano is clean and pleasant to hear and she has a winning stage presence which made us care about this 18-year-old not-so-innocent. We liked her aria about her origins in Barcelona, daughter of a fish monger and a sailor, trying to advance herself in this world. 

Erin Cressy directed and Meganne George was responsible for the minimal but workable set. Costume Designer Carly Bradt finally provided costumes suggestive of 18th c. aristocracy for the women while the men wore street clothes.

It was a real pleasure to see the entire season of Beaumarchais on four consecutive nights.  Thanks Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble!

(c) meche kroop

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