|Thomas Massey as Rodolfo and Michelle Pretto as Mimi in Amore Opera's La Bohème|
We enjoyed Amore Opera's La Bohème so much that we returned for the New Year's Eve Gala, eager to see how the work held up with a different cast. Although vocal artistry is the most important aspect, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a Rodolfo who looks like a young poet.
Tenor Thomas Massey convincingly portrayed youthful high spirits in Act I, a lovesick poet in Act II, a troubled young man in Act III (breaking up is hard to do) and an anguished sufferer in Act IV. With superlative vocalism and Italianate phrasing, his performance added a great deal to the evening. The one downside to such perfect casting is that his three fellow bohemians seemed to come from a different generation.
As his Mimi, Michelle Pretto's generous soprano and winsome presence made her a fine romantic partner. Elisabeth Slaten did well as the flirtatious Musetta.
Marcello was sung by Gustavo Morales and Brian J. Alvarado made a fine Schaunard. As was the case the prior night, the "Vecchia zimarra" of Colline (Brinson Keeley) did not register the symbolic pathos that we wanted to hear.
Rick Agster made a very funny Benoît and Parpignol was portrayed by Federico Campisano in Santa Claus attire. David Owen made a fine Alcindoro. The passive-agressive customs officials were played by Thomas Geib and Peter Nasonov.
Maestro Scott Jackson Wiley continued his efforts to pull together a somewhat ragged orchestra which suffered from intonation problems and also problems of balance. There was one part which we particularly enjoyed--the beginning of Act III when the lovely sound of the harp (Sonia Bize) played off the delicate percussion. We have never before focused so intently on Act III and again found it truly the turning point for these young bohemians.
It was a most enjoyable evening with dinner served between acts. The audience was having a marvelous time and most audience member elected to remain after the midnight champagne toast for a very special concert.
Cast members and choristers had the opportunity to perform solos and ensembles. Of course we had "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata. After all, it was New Year's Eve and we all needed a good drinking song. The "Champagne Song" from Johan Strauss III's Die Fledermaus added more fuel to the alcoholic fire. The "Czardas" from the same operetta was similarly well performed by Kristina Malinauskaite.
A major highlight was hearing Nathan Hull (President and Stage Director) sing the "Mikado's Aria" from the eponymous Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Mr. Hull, as we know from his writing for Scrooge, has a real feel for G&S, as do we. His delivery was a source of not-so-innocent merriment.
We enjoyed Elisabeth Slaten's delivery of "Vilja" from Franz Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe and Lindsey Marie Wells' sang the "Italian Street Song" from Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta, reminding us to check in with Victor Herbert Renaisssance Project Live for their next offering.
Allegra Durante sang "Prendi" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. We also had some vocal fireworks from Elizabeth Treat who treated us to some of the Queen of the Night's rage, with some excellent work in the coloratura passages.
We heard a duet from Verdi's Forza del Destino performed by Michael Celentano and Gustavo Morales, who also sang Agustín Lara's "Granada". Mr. Morales' son Mario sang "Lonely Town" from Bernstein's On the Town. Mr. Celentano's solo piece was "Dein ist mein ganzes herz" from Lehár's Das Land des Lächelns.
Jay Stephenson tackled "Ja vas liubliu" from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame and also a song from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schonberg. "Warm as the Autumn Light" from Douglas Moore's Ballad of Baby Doe was sung by Alan Smullen. From Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I "My Lord and Master" was sung by Kazue Kazami Kiyono.
The singing went on and on until your intrepid reviewer was "the last one standing"--well actually sitting! Of the Seven Deadly Sins, we own up to Gluttony but the opera/operetta/musical theater banquet was lavish and we wanted to taste it all.
(c) meche kroop