|Charles Gray, Jennifer Zamorano, Allegra Durante, Hannah Madeleine Goodman, and David Serero|
Opera fanatics might have gotten their knickers in a twist at last night's production of Mozart's Nozze di Figaro but everyone else, ourself included, had a grand time. Gone were the lengthy intermissions, missing were a few characters, and lengthy recitativi were replaced by English dialogue that advanced the action. We are happy to report that most of the major arias were retained, giving us the opportunity to appreciate some fine singing.
This adaptation was written and directed by baritone David Serero, a larger-than-life character with a larger-than-life personality. Mr. Serero himself took on the part of Figaro and played to the (nonexistent) balcony. If we had been at the Met, his voice would have reached the Family Circle and his acting would have successfully limned his character to the audience thereof.
Mr. Serero likes to put his own spin on things and the dialogue he wrote was peppered with Yiddish expressions. A mysterious figure appeared from the wings at one point, accompanied by a theme from the film The Godfather. This presence represented the sneaky Don Basilio; a photo of this character (actually Mr. Serero with a mobster accent and mafioso costume) can be seen in the carousel of photos on our Facebook page (called Voce di Meche). At another point, Charles Gray's Count Almaviva appeared dressed as Darth Vader, accompanied by appropriate music. That's one way to threaten a wife!
At another point Mr. Serero interpolated the "Figaro Aria" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Forget the "fourth wall". Mr. Serero does everything he can to engage the audience and they all adore him; they even sang along at his bidding. A Tom and Jerry cartoon of this aria was projected and reminded us of our very earliest exposure to opera.
If this sounds like your cup of borscht, we urge you to go and have a good time. Make sure you bring an opera "noobie". The one we invited had a swell time. Not only will you have a great time but you will hear some fine voices.
As the sprightly Susanna, we heard Hannah Madeleine Goodman who was completely convincing as the practical problem-solver, a fine match for her Figaro. She deftly illustrated quite different responses to her beloved fiancé and toward the importuning Count. In what would have been Act IV, her "Deh vieni, non tardar" was beautifully rendered and quite moving, by virtue of some exquisite dynamics.
As the neglected Countess Almaviva, Jennifer Zamorano made her entrance in sunglasses and shopping bags. It was easy to accept her as a woman of dignity, reduced to seeking help from her servant Susanna. She shone in both arias--"Porgi amor" and "Dove sono", eliciting compassion in the midst of all that hilarity. Her instrument has a lovely vibrato and opens up beautifully in the upper register.
Equally convincing was the Cherubino of Allegra Durante who did justice to both of her arias "Non so piu" and "Voi che sapete". The scene in which the Countess and Susanna dress Cherubino up as a girl wound up on the cutting room floor, along with Marcellina, Dr. Bartolo, and Barbarina. It seems to us to be quite a challenge to retain the thread of the story whilst eliminating all the subplots--but it worked just fine.
As Almaviva, Charles Gray also evinced a different relationship with Susanna and with his wife. He sported a cockeyed white perriwig and satin coat. It was interesting that the male characters were in period dress whilst the female characters were in contemporary attire. Notes to the Count were handled by text with appropriate sound effects, bringing this costume drama right into the 21st c. and adding to the general merriment.
There was no set to speak of but projections sufficed to establish the setting.
The piano score was well played by composer Felix Jarrar who switched readily from Mozart to cinematic score.
Once more, Mr. Serero has done his part in bringing opera to new audiences with his creative slant. This production was held in the comfortable theater of the Center for Jewish History and was presented by The American Sephardi Federation which generously supports these works. He shared with the audience information about Lorenzo Da Ponte, who was Jewish. He related how Da Ponte brought opera to New York City--a tale which was well told by Divaria Productions which we reviewed in May of 2018; it can be read at this link if you are interested. http://www.vocedimeche.reviews/2018/05/don-giovanni-in-new-york.html
There will be a couple additional performances and we hope you will take advantage of the opportunity for some hearty laughter.
We are looking forward to the production of Anne, a musical about Anne Frank which will take place in September.
(c) meche kroop