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 24, 2013


Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's summer season has given us a very good look at the "glory that was Rome".  LOL!  Murder, abuse of power, treachery and seduction abound. But Mozart the Humanist, writing La Clemenza di Tito a century and a half after Monteverdi, ends his final opera with forgiveness.  In the photo above, at the glorious conclusion of this opera seria, the Emperor Titus, here called Tito, forgives Sesto and Vitellia who had plotted to assassinate him.

Mezzo Hilary Ginther impressed us with a lovely and unique quality to her voice and a dramatically valid portrayal of the weak-willed Sesto who was putty in the hands of Vitellia; the vengeful woman, feeling rejected as a marital partner by Tito, would do anything to destroy his happiness, although he is, by all evidence, a public spirited and generous ruler.  The role was sung by soprano Elana Gleason who used her stunning looks and equally stunning voice to good effect.  Tenor Timothy Stoddard brought his vocal gifts to the role of Tito and portrayed him as fair-minded and yet a ruler of authority.

Sesto's sister Servilia was beautifully sung by soprano Rachel Zatcoff and her lover, the self-sacrificing Annio, by mezzo Allison Waggener who demonstrated a fine legato in her phrasing.  Bass Brendan Stone was forceful as Publio.  Effective in the ensemble were Heather Gerban, Kristina Malinauskaite, Sanford Eliot Schimel and Charles Williamson.

Maestro Christopher Fecteau conducted the Dell'Arte Opera Festival Orchestra from the harpsichord, playing the Continuo.  They gave a tight performance; we cannot help but single out the clarinet playing of Samuel Marques whose tone on the basset horn was thrilling in the way that only a basset horn can thrill.  We do love those low notes!

As is the case with this company, production values focus on the singers with sets and costumes playing second banana.  Nina Bova dressed the singers in military costumes for the men and more or less contemporary dress for the women. Stage Director Walker Lewis moved the performers around in a meaningful motivated way and provided some interesting "stage business".  For example,  Vitellia's flights of fioritura were accompanied by Sesto nibbling on her neck.  Hot!

We especially enjoyed a duet between Annio and Servilio and the final gorgeous ensemble when all is forgiven.  We confess that we have never loved this opera on the big stage, but here, in the mid-size 13th St. Theatre, the work came across as an intimate drama between members of the court; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and you can as well because there is one more performance tonight.

© meche kroop

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