|Manhattan School of Music Junior Opera Theater|
Every time we attend one of Catherine Malfitano's productions we have the same reaction. "How does one create such engaging performances from a group of undergraduates?" Attendees see only the finished product; we can only imagine how much hard work goes into creating such an entertaining event.
This iteration used two lighthearted Paris operettas to provide raw material for singers of superior talent--we don't just mean vocally but talent in creating interesting characters by means of movement and gesture. Coordinator and Stage Director Ms. Malfitano made sure that the eye was as engaged as the ear. Her ten year collaboration with pianist Eric Sedgwick is an extraordinarily successful one.
Ms. Malfitano's years of onstage stardom are being used to advance the artistry of her students and this is something we applaud. She welcomed the audience and explained that roles would be multiply cast. There was no story line one could follow nor were we always sure who was whom, unless we knew the singer from other performances. In that case, we will credit them with apologies to the singers whom we couldn't be sure of identifying accurately.
The first operetta from which the scenes were chosen was by Reynaldo Hahn, whose early 20th c. songs hark back to earlier epochs, and are famous for their melodious nature. His operetta Ciboulette was unknown to us but, having heard the music, we would just love to see it. All we know is that it is the story of a farm girl named after a vegetable of the allium family (chive) and her romance with an aristocrat.
We loved the romantic duet sung by soprano Shan Hai and tenor Jeh Young (Michael) Woo--"Les parents, quand on est bébé". There was also a charming duet which we may have heard before but definitely wish to hear again--"Nous avons fait un beau voyage" sung by soprano Alexis Rose Seminario and baritone Sung Shin, whose artistry we know well from his Arias Under the Arch in Washington Square Park.
Other artists bringing these scenes to life included sopranos Ripley Lucas-Tagliani, Bela Albet, and Alina Eva Flatscher, tenor Nathaniel McBride, and baritone Keith Smith.
The singers provided their own costumes and all of them looked colorful and charming. In the second operetta of the evening, Emmanuel Chabrier's late 19th c. comedy L'Étoile, the singers costumed themselves with witty abandon (corsets, petticoats, striped leggings), photos of which you can see on our Facebook page (Voce di Meche).
We have a vague recollection of seeing this opéra bouffe long ago, enough to remember that Ouf was a king who put his faith in an astrologer and that Lazuli was a poor peddler in love with a princess in disguise named Laoula. Perhaps the story is silly but the melodies are gorgeous.
The one singer we could absolutely identify was mezzo-soprano Rosario Hernández Armas whom we just heard singing Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas a couple days ago. Here, her French was as fine as her Spanish in the role of Lazuli in "Romance de l'étoile"
The role was shared with other mezzo-sopranos in the group: Kaitlin Barron, Jay E. Condon, and Emily Dubil. The role of Laoula was sung variously by sopranos Emily Hanseul Park, Nicoletta Berry, and Elizabeth Perry--but also by Ms. Barron and Ms. Dubil!
Adding to the fun in various roles were sopranos Lilith Spivack and Lilly Eden Cadow, tenors Julien Thomas, Andrew Hoben, and Giovanni Xu; baritone Cole Marino and bass-baritone Evan Lazdowski.
Our favorite numbers were the tickling song "Couplets du chatouillement" and the final couplet "Nous voici, messieurs, à la fin" in which Ms. Perry and Ms. Condon created some gorgeous loving harmonies.
We were totally satisfied by the evening but were gifted with an enchanting encore performed by the ensemble--Gabriel Fauré's "Pleurs d'or"--a thoroughly gorgeous song that was new to us, a lagniappe for which we were grateful.
What a complete treat the evening was!
(c) meche kroop