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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


 Eric McKeever as Michele
(photo by Dan Wright Photography)

Giacomo Puccini's Il Trittico comprises three one-act operas. We have seen all three on one long evening and we have seen them separately, often paired with other one-act operas. Recently we have seen Gianni Schicchi , a comedy, and Suor Angelica, a tragedy of victimhood. Last night we saw Il Tabarro, a drama of thwarted love and revenge, presented in riveting fashion by On Site Opera, a company we revere for fitting the opera to the setting,

This has always been the least loved one of the three operas and we confess to not really getting it until last night, staged on the Lightship Ambrose (subbing for a barge), docked at Pier 16 of the South Street Seaport. Singers moved up and down the gangplank carrying heavy loads. Women gathered around the song-seller to acquire the latest sheetmusic. The realism of the setting served to amplify the realismo of the opera. 

As in Leoncavallo's earlier work Pagliacci, a man is rejected by his wife and finds revenge in murder, a story that must have resonated with audiences at the turn of the 20th c.  Come to think of it, one has only to read newspapers to know that the "plot" still exists, although crimes of passion are, in these days, more likely to be accomplished secretly. Fortunately we were not exposed to ridiculous attempts at modernization. Costuming was accurate and served to reinforce the sense of time and place.

Director Laine Rettmer did a superb job of telling the story and Maestro Geoffrey McDonald utilized the smallish orchestra in a manner that supported the singers and yet amplified the emotions of the characters when there was a lull in the singing. Speaking of amplification, we realize it was necessary in a noisy outdoor environment and we credit the sound design for keeping a fine balance. We heard from one of the singers that each singer heard differently and standing in different places often left the singer unaware of the volume. This makes the success doubly impressive. The loss of sound of unamplified voices was more than compensated by the achievement of reality.

Baritone Eric McKeever was outstanding as the captain of the barge, projecting a sense of kindliness both toward the stevedores in his employ and toward his wife, with whom he once shared tender loving moments. He succeeded in arousing our sympathy.  What could be more damaging to a man's sense of masculinity than having his embraces rejected by his wife. 

Soprano Ashley Milanese was fine in this role and also succeeded in arousing our sympathy as she sings of the child that died. Perhaps that was what destroyed the love she once shared with Michele. As she recalls her lovely home in suburban Paris and shares these reminiscences with Luigi, her stevedore lover who came from the same banlieu, we come to appreciate the bond between them and what Luigi represents to her.

The role of Luigi was well handled by tenor Yi Li who struggled with his passion for his boss' wife. Giuseppe Adami's libretto never makes him out to be a villain, just a man led around by his sexual passions who found a partner to return his lust.

With the major roles of this love triangle so effectively portrayed, one could also make note of the success of the subsidiary roles. Jose Heredia injected some humor and fine singing in the role of the bibulous Tinca, one of the stevedores who tries to dance with Georgetta and steps on her toes.

The other stevedore Talpa was sung by Artega Wright who, in contrast with Michele and Georgetta, seems to have a reciprocal relationship with his wife La Frugola, played with marvelous low voice and comic spirit by Sharmay Musacchio. The scene in which she distributes the many treasures of her dumpster diving  served to lighten the atmosphere.

There was a wonderful moment in which the Song Seller distributed sheet music to the gathering milliners and the orchestra played a theme from Puccini's masterwork La Bohême in which we just last week heard Mr. Heredia as Rodolfo! In any event, that Puccini was a clever devil!

Let us now name the members of The Ensemble who contributed so much vocally and dramatically, some of whom we have heard singing at our local conservatories or at competitions. Sopranos Yohji Daquio, Lindsey Kanaga, Theodora Siegel, and Kiena Williams; mezzo sopranos Claire Coven and JoAnna Vladyka; Tenor Daniel Rosenberg; Baritone Paul LaRosa; and bass Brian McQueen.

From the moment the opera began we were totally engaged. There was not a single longueur. It was as if a real event was unrolling before our very eyes and ears. It was an event to remember and cherish.

© meche kroop

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