|Edwin Davis, Brian Michael Moore, Janet Todd, Sarah Mikulski, and Matthew Hernandez|
How lucky are we to hear TWO Mozart singspiels on two successive nights.! Our head is just bursting with gorgeous melodies. The youthful Mozart composed Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1782 when the Ottoman Empire was a source of great interest to the Austrian people and the singspiel was an immediate success.
Last night, Maestro Thomas Muraco led his Opera Repertoire Ensemble through this charming piece at Manhattan School of Music. He certainly does know his singers; he knew he had the right cast to tackle this comedy which contains two of the most challenging arias in the repertoire.
All of the singing was fine but two performances stood out for their vocal and dramatic excellence. Soprano Janet Todd portrayed Konstanze, an elite Spanish woman who was purchased by Pasha Selim from pirates and installed in his harem. He has not abused her but has been trying to win her love. Everything about Ms. Todd's performance was spot on. Her attack of the elaborate fioritura was sharp as could be but the melting lyricism of the expressive vocal line left nothing to be desired. Although the role is unidimensional, she created a warm character, loyal to her fiancé Belmonte. We held our breath throughout "Martern aller Arten", astonished at her facility.
Bass Edwin Davis impressed us with his portrayal of the comically nasty Osmin, servant to the Pasha. He so immersed himself in the role that it never seemed like acting. It would have been a mesmerizing performance if he had never sung a note; but his booming room-filling voice was marvelously employed to serve the role. The difficult third act aria "Ha, wie will ich triumphieren" contains some of the lowest notes in the bass repertory and he nailed them.
His duet with Blonde, Konstanze's English maid who was also purchased by the Pasha, was pure delight. It's a bit unusual for both female roles to be written for the same fach; soprano Sarah Mikulski made a most effective Blonde both dramatically and vocally; we enjoyed her sparring with Osmin whom she is rejecting just as successfully as her mistress is rejecting Selim.
Not only are both female characters sopranos but both male characters are tenors. Brian Michael Moore took the role of Belmonte, Kostanze's fiancé who has come to rescue her; Matthew Hernandez performed the role of Belmonte's servant Pedrillo. What a pleasure to hear healthy young voices sing with clarity. Mr. Moore might improve his performance by not putting so much volume in his upper register.
Pasha Selim, a non-singing role, was performed by Paul Goodwin-Groen who might have better spoken his narration without amplification. At times the microphone was too close or too far from his mouth, leading to drastic changes of volume.
Maestro Muraco and his talented musicians reduced the score for two pianos (Jeremy Chan and Jonathan Heaney) and percussion (Stefano Baldasseroni and Jia Jun Hong). The percussion comprised a bass drum, cymbals, and a triangle in order to reproduce the sounds of a Turkish marching band.
We loved the the overture with its A-B-A-B form. We loved the duet between Osmin and Blonde, which included a lot of feminine retaliation with a broom. We enjoyed Pedrillo's serenade in Act III and the love duet between Kostanze and Belmonte in which each got to sing the melody while the other held the same note constant. We loved the quartet of reconciliation when the two pairs of lovers forgive each other. We just then realized that all of Mozart's comedies seem to have two pairs of lovers.
We must also put in a good word for the chorus who seemed very well rehearsed.
The set was minimal--just a trio of screens to suggest "the Orient".
Costumes were streetwear for the Europeans and an appropriate turban and vest for Osmin.
There will be another performance tonight. Take advantage! Although the plot is simple, the music is marvelous.
(c) meche kroop