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.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Allyson Herman Kurian, Chelsea Rodriguez, Luke van Meveren, and Brian J. Alvarado in Utopia Opera's production of The Sorcerer by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

We can think of no finer revenge on the Blind Archer than to have his work undone by a magic elixir. The Sorcerer was William S. Gilbert's and Arthur Sullivan's third creation and their first two-act operetta; it was quite a success in its day but is not as frequently performed as Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and H.M.S. Pinafore. It endears itself to us by poking fun at class consciousness and by sending up so many operatic tropes.

Naturally our thoughts wandered to L'Elisir d'amore, Tristan und Isolde, and even, at the conclusion, to Don Giovanni. When, how, and with whom people fall in love is a topic of endless fascination.

In this story the well-meaning aristocratic Alexis (performed by the charming Luke van Meveren) wants everyone to enjoy the wedded bliss he is expecting with the similarly aristocratic and beautiful Aline (sung by the beautiful and golden-voiced Allyson Herman Kurian). He is a true progressive, wanting to see people joined without regard to social class.

Consequently, he employs the services of a sorcerer named John Wellington Wells (performed by the funny Brian J. Alvarado) and his apprentice Hercules (Chelsea Rodriguez). The love potion is served up to the Villagers (the superb Utopia Opera chorus) in their tea--with disastrous results.

Alexis' dignified father Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Jack Anderson White) has been in love with Aline's mother Lady Annabella Sangazure (Julia Snowden) for years and if you think they are going to get matched you are in for a big surprise.

Meanwhile, the lovely but "low-born" Constance (charmingly portrayed by Hannah Madeleine Goodman), daughter of Mrs. Zorah Partlet (Sarah Marvel Bleasdale) is pining for the pompous Vicar Dr. Daly (Ben Cohen) who thinks he is too old for love.  And if you think they will match, get ready for another surprise.

Mismatched lovers are always good for a giggle and Gilbert and Sullivan made sure we got our share of giggles with Sullivan's frothy melodies and Gilbert's witty words.  We wonder if there will ever again be a partnership that adept at setting the English language!

Polymath William Remmers not only directed and entertained the audience before the show by performing and explaining (!) a card trick, but also conducted the chamber orchestra of seventeen who filled Sullivan's melodies with sparkle.

The mid 20th c. costuming was well devised by Eric Lamp and Angel Betancourt.  There was an original scene involving a supernatural incantation which Sullivan had never set. Just listen to how Maestro Remmers solved that problem!

If we have a small quibble (and don't we always!) it would be with the inconsistency of the accents. For some reason, Mrs. Partlet and Constance employed an odd accent that was not quite French and not quite German. The words of the working folk of the village were given surtitles utilizing a cockney accent which was not uniformly adopted in the singing. Mr. Alvarado, who was quite adept in the patter songs, failed to achieve anything resembling a British accent. However, the aristocratic folk did rather better with a plummy accent which no one could have failed to identify.

Quibble aside, it was a marvelously entertaining piece of theater and we hope you read this in time to get tickets for the Sunday matinée which closes the run at Hunter College in the Lang Recital Hall.

If not, you must see what this spunky company will do with Britten's Albert Herring in April.

(c) meche kroop

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