|Onstage--Alexis Cregger, Nate Mattingly, Maestro Fernando Palomeque, Madison Marie McIntosh, Ivan Ramiro, Brian Alvarado, Andrea Howland, and Mark Watson|
A couple years ago we learned that opera lives across the East River, and last night we realized that opera lives across the Hudson as well. Under the stewardship of General Director/soprano Mia Riker-Norrie, Opera Theatre Montclair has developed quite a loyal following in the community and created a sizable and devoted audience. Rossini's La Cenerentola was the perfect choice for a full-scale production.
We were not the only outsiders lured to New Jersey. Sharing our enthusiasm was retired soprano Elinor Ross, Maestro Keith Chambers of New Amsterdam Opera, and heartthrob tenor Vittorio Grigolo. What drew us was an opportunity to hear one of our favorite young artists perform what must be called her "signature role". Mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh first came to our attention four years ago when we decided she was someone to watch.
This lovely young woman has it all--talent, looks, and enough intelligence to direct her career, as well as the dedication to make it happen. Having changed her fach from soprano to mezzo-soprano, she has retained the brilliance and flexibility necessary for bel canto singing and seems to be expanding the resonance of her lower register. We have never enjoyed "Non piu mesta" more!
The dramatic skills she evinced in the leading role were matched by the rest of the cast in a theatrically involving production of Rossini's tuneful and touching comedy. Responsible for the inspired direction was counter-tenor Nicholas Tamagna who framed the opera as a silent movie of the 1920's, with the film-director portrayed by bass-baritone Mark Watson, who also sang the role of Alidoro, Prince Ramiro's tutor. David Gillam's gorgeous costume designs evoked the styles of Poiret.
The singing was excellent all around with Alexis Cregger creating a Clorinda of powerful dramatic import. We have reviewed this superb soprano on multiple occasions and have always admired her gleaming tone and connection with the material. As her equally obnoxious sister Tisbe we enjoyed the on point performance of mezzo-soprano Andrea Howland whom we would be happy to hear again. The two nasty sisters worked well together.
As their father, bass-baritone Nate Mattingly, sporting a delightfully ridiculous hairstyle, won us over with a creamy tone, apt phrasing, and excellent comic timing. This is another young artist to watch and we expect that the future holds more development at the bass end of his range.
Tenor Ivan Rivera exhibited an easy bel canto technique and stood out in his aria "Si, ritrovarla io giuro". As his valet Dandini, baritone Brian Alvarado handled his role well and was the perfect foil as he exchanged roles with the Prince and bamboozled Angelina's family.
For us, the most touching moment of the opera was when Angelina tells Dandini, thinking him to be the Prince, that she couldn't marry him because her heart belonged to someone else--the someone else, of course, being the Prince who was disguised as his own valet. At this point, Ms. McIntosh made Angelina's innocence perfectly clear and perfectly adorable.
Adorable in a different way was the hilarious burlesque spectacle of Ms. Riker-Norrie--alias "Mia Vergogna" who sang and tap-danced her way into our heart during a scene change, a lagniappe to be sure!
The chorus of seven men were well-rehearsed and created Angelina's coach in a stunning and imaginative scene. Donning papier mache horse heads, they pulled an imaginary coach the wheels of which were twirling umbrellas. We always appreciate creativity more than expensive sets.
Maestro Fernando Palomeque, whom we heard just this week in a piano recital at the Argentinean Consulate, effectively led the orchestra through Rossini's bubbly score. The orchestra was placed at seating level off to one side so that the opera could be performed both onstage and also below at orchestra level. This arrangement worked well and the United Way Theatre served well as a home for this production.
Finally, it deserves to be noted that the Italian diction was fine all across the board, but was augmented by projected titles.
This same cast will be performing next Friday night at 8:00 with a partly different cast performing today and next Saturday at 4:00.
(c) meche kroop