Sunday, August 14, 2016
DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
Jessica Doolan has a lovely soprano and an engaging manner that made her a fine childlike Gretel. Jessica Gonzales-Rodriguez' mezzo-soprano made a satisfactory Hansel but we hope that she will do some work on mastering masculine mannerisms, in order to be more believable in a pants role.
We particularly enjoyed baritone Louis Ong as a forceful father appropriately concerned about his children. Mezzo-soprano Rachael Gomes portrayed the Mother. As the cannibalistic Wicked Witch, Isabella Stollenmeier needed a big dose of nastiness to be convincing, whereas Yen Yu Chen was all sunshine as the Dew Fairy. Rebekah Hartie did well as the Sandman.
The major pleasure of the evening lay in Maestro Chambers' effective conducting of the reduced orchestra in which the horn and clarinet played major parts. Humperdinck made liberal use of folk melodies which he orchestrated with fine harmonies reflective of Wagner. There were moments in the overture when we thought of Parsifal. The prayer is familiar, as is the sibling dancing song. But it is always a treat to hear the entire score.
We were not thrilled with Lisa Nava's direction. Many of the instructions in the libretto were ignored and the characters rarely faced one another. It appeared as if they were directed to face the audience. The four singers never seemed to form a family. We wanted more menace from the witch.
The setting comprised a couple of tree stumps and some brooms made of twigs. Nothing more was needed. Costumes were cleverly improvised with the Dew Fairy making quite an impression with her sunny yellow dress and parasol.
On the whole, Manhattan Opera Studio provided a delightful exposure to this wonderful opera. We were able to hear a single cast but would gladly have heard it twice.
© meche kroop