Friday, May 16, 2008

Opera Theater

I went last night to see a double bill at CSUS of the finale to Act II of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (1786) and Stephen Paulus's The Village Singer (1979), something I had never heard of before this.

The evening was conducted by Timm Rolek of the Sacramento Opera, the same guy that conducted Tosca earlier this month. I wasn't sure about the selection of the Mozart scene which started at the point where the Count opens the dressing room door and Susanna comes out instead of the expected Cherubino and proceeds to the end. There are a lot of parts, giving lots of students time to take part but no solos or opportunities to shine.

I notice that Rolek is doing Le Nozze di Figaro at the Sacramento Opera next year. Let's hope he gives the professional singers more musical attention and expressive space than he did the students. He seemed to be completely preoccupied with the small orchestra.

The singers were on their own but generally did fine. I especially liked the voice and presentation of Kathrine Bamfield as Susanna. Her voice has both the focused beauty and penetrating qualities that could take her as far as she wants to go. She's also cute. Buona fortuna.

The Village Singer is traditional modernism. The world has changed a lot since 1979. A spinster, Candace Whitcomb, has been the paid soloist at her village church for 40 years, and her choir members are throwing her a surprise party. At the beginning they are playing musical chairs. When the party is over, Miss Whitcomb finds a photo album on the table with pictures of her 40 year tenure with the church. In the album she finds a letter telling her she has been fired and replaced by a much younger woman. Candace does not go gently. When the new soloist does her solo, Candace sings a solo of her own from next door, and Candace has a loud and penetrating voice.

The story ends tragically. Temper tantrums are not a good idea for the old. As she is dying, her replacement sings for her, and Candace's last words are that she is flat.

This small opera is an opportunity to star for the person who sings Candace Whitcomb, in our case Ariana Uriz. She was brilliant, even going so far as to fake the natural wobble of a woman in her sixties during her solo at the party. She has learned a big technique and showed it off to good effect. I also liked her acting. I loved her Candace Whitcomb.

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