Saturday, May 05, 2018

Opera in Disguise

Sacramento State Opera Theater presented two short operas with a common theme:  one or more characters are in disguise.  The great disguise opera is La Cenerentola where the Prince and his valet exchange places. Both roles are well developed.

There is a small orchestra positioned behind the singers.  I have been in this theater when it had a pit, and the remnants of the pit are still visible.  So why don't they use it?  The supertitles were virtually invisible, and other signs of disrepair were all around.

Conductor:  Ryan Murray
Director:    Omari Tau

Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard (1946) by Pierre Petit

Sylvia, a young Parisian    Angela Yam, soprano
Lisette, her maid                Tatiana Grabcluc, soprano
Dotante, a young Parisian  Nathan Halbut, baritone, guest artist

Sylvia is expecting a visit from her betrothed, a man named Dotante.  They are betrothed but have never met, apparently.  Sylvia and Lisette change places, which consists primarily of putting the maid's outfit onto Sylvia.  When a young man arrives, he claims to be Dotante's servant.  The two pretend servants get along very well and decide once the disguises are revealed that marriage would be a good idea after all.

This is a relatively modern piece and is therefore through-composed.  The music was sweet and charming.  I liked both of the young women in this work, and would have liked to hear more of Tatiana.  Angela is beautiful and appeared also in the next opera.

Il campanello di notte (1836) by Gaetano Donizetti

Serafina, a young bride                       Angela Yam, soprano
Don Annibale Pistacchio, an apothecary  Justin Ramm-Damron, bass
Enrico, Serafina's cousin                      Jordan Krack, baritone, opera theater alumnus
Spiridione, Don Annibale's servant      Jacob Burke, tenor
Madama Rosa, Serafina's mother        Valerie Loera

Don Annibale, an old man, has just married Serafina who is much too young for him.  Their family members are celebrating the nuptials.  A cute bit of business occurs when Don Annibale and his new mother-in-law dance together and she leads.  Enrico arrives and has a long duet with Serafina for the most operatic section of the piece.  She is not encouraging, and Enrico leaves after toasting the groom.  This scene would have been improved with visible supertitles.

Don Annibale dresses for bed with his new bride, but before anything can happen, Enrico arrives in three disguises, each needing a prescription.  From here it is a major slapstick tour de force for Enrico.  He looks and acts like an idiot in all three of his disguises.  The audience screamed.  The most amazing thing about this opera and probably the explanation for why you have never seen it lies in the lines for disguise number 3:  they have a long list of ingredients for the prescription which they recite like a patter song.  How is this even possible?  Jordan Crack carried this entire opera.

It was Donizetti and therefore featured extended sections of secco recitative played on an electric piano.  It was too loud.  I always say sing with the music, not the conductor.  Here there was no choice.  The conductor faced the musicians at the back, even when playing the electric piano.  The singers either faced each other or the audience.  No one got lost or confused.

This is fun, and you will never see either of these operas again.

No comments: