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Archive for June 2010

Yannick’s visit: Corrado’s Orfee

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Orfee et Eurydice
Opera Company of Philadelphia
/Curtis Opera collaboration
Corrado Rovaris, conducting
June 17-25, 2010
Perelman Theater

Good news energizes: Yannick Nezet -Seguin’s appointment as the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music director elect has put the city in a good mood. The French Canadian’s visit to the Kimmel and to Citizens Park on Friday brought in 200 hundred new subscribers according to a marketing rep for the orchestra. While Yannick was working the neighborhoods, Opera Company music director Corrado Rovaris was steering a fine Orfee et Eurydice at the Perelman. The Gluck is the Opera Company’s anticipated and usually sold out chamber opera collaboration with Curtis Opera Theater. This season’s production was changed from the planned three to five performances.

Designer Phillipe Amand strips the stage to sensuous color (teal/sky blue) and projected light. The underworld has a way of appearing and disappearing that is fabulous. There are only three principals: Mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Dunose as Orfee, soprano Elizabeth Reiter as Amor and Maureen Mckay as the doomed Eurydice. Dunose has a triple challenges in her first time out in the arduous role, she’s nearly always singing on an empty stage and the blocking doesn’t cut her any slack. One end of the stage to the other (or prone midcenter). the distinguished mezzo can’t always be heard. The grief and pain; the burnish of her art does comes through. Gluck’s timeless arias grow stronger, deeper as Orfee finally finds Eurydice and the lovers prepare to gain or lose each other – again. Mckay as the doomed wife shows many facets of Eurydice’s character in a soprano that is brilliant and can soar.

The austere staging clearly inspires director Bob Driver but perhaps to match the minimalism of the modernism, he keeps gestures at a minimum nor are there are any helpful props. Nary a flower for the grave, no instrument for the musician Orfee, any of which could have been projected but I am sure the idea was to avoid sentiment. (Instead the dancing veered toward sentiment.) Most confusing are Orfee’s trials: though we have the supertitles to remind that husband must not look at his wife as he takes her from the Underworld they are staged so near each other singing it feels ridiculous to have them pretending they do not see each other each other at all. Some productions use a blindfold which has its merits.

Reiter, a standout as Amina in Curtis Opera’s Sleepwalker not so long ago, is terrific in the feisty role of Love. Her costume makes her look like a punk hellion, the main wit in the opera. Richard St. Clair clearly had fun with the get up.

Amanda Miller’s choreography has a lot to recommend it particularly during the Elysian Fields panorama. Miller (of Miro Dance Theatre) ’s dances take up 50 of the opera’s entire 90 -minutes but there is some mannerism to the choreographic effort that detracts. Melding the chorus into the dance is a good idea that doesn’t quite work. Using an aerialist for Orfee’s descent is a brilliant stroke.

Maestro Rovaris, who has achieved so much for the professional company, doesn’t push too hard; his band usually aims for and achieves the subtle. It would have been nice to have a drier, more detached style of string playing to suit the period of Christoph Willibald Gluck instead of the fatter legato achieved. Still, such ardor to Orfee and Eurydice’s music – humanity here, real beauty. Rare opportunity to hear this version Berlioz arranged from Gluck’s two earlier French versions.

The poet Louise Glueck writes: “Everyone wants to be Orpheus.” True enough, since he gets the adulation and the best parts.But Eurydice’s part, though smaller, is pretty amazing too.

The last performance at the Perelman is June 25.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

June 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm

New Romeo from the PA ranks

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Romeo and Juliet
Pa Ballet
Academy of Music
June 5 matinee
(June 4-12, 2010)

It’s heartening to watch a gifted company member step into a lead for the first time. PA Ballet’s Ian Hussey chance at Romeo turned out very well Saturday afternoon. Lucky fellow: his Juliet was Pa Ballet principal Arantxa Ochoa.

The late John Cranko’s choreography for Romeo and Juliet is strong on the solos and duos; the development of character. It bogs down in the work for the ensemble, too much unison, predictability. The company injects flair with interpretative gesture. The work dates from 1964.

With his pals, Benvolio (Andre Vytoptov) and Mercutio, Romeo danced a fine trio. Mercutio was the ever inscouciant Jonathan Stiles. Even near death, Mercutio won’t lose his sense of gallantry or humor. The death will stick in the memory.

Hussey’s dancing is lithe, centered. Excellent turns. A lift or two were awkward during the first pas de deux but then the signature overheard and backward lifts accomplished what they should. A sense of ectasy and yearning. Hussey showed many states. He was bashful, playful, longing. A young Romeo with promise upon whom Ochoa lavished her attentions. Her gifts.

Shakespeare’s death love, death and more death brought the best out of Prokofiev. Beatrice Jona Affron
led the band. Not her fault the horns could not overcome humidity. The production’s a beauty, autumn colors, twilight balconies.
The gypsy girls were worth remarking –Gabriella Yudenich, Laura Bowman, Hawley Rowe– so natural their gestures for the lovesick Romeo and the dying Mercutio.

This is an excellent time to support the ever struggling company. Until the end of July, all contributions no matter how small will be matched by a $200,00 grant from the board. Hurry.

Written by Lesley Valdes

June 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Sunday at the Arden

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Sunday in the Park with George
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Arden Theatre new production
June 2 – July 4, 2010

Arden director Terry Nolan’s got a way with Sondheim. His second time out with Sunday in the Park with George at the Arden now is a top notch. Music Director Eric Ebbenga (PRO: Ebb-an-gay) does well by the full out original orchestra and the 15-member cast of singing actors works like a true ensemble. They don’t shout or screech as happens at several houses here where the amplification is routinely over the top and (still) doesn’t disguise inferior singing.

Sunday in the Park at the Arden is not Sondheim at the top of his game no matter that it’s the one for which he got the Pulitzer. It is a sweet musical making good points and platitudes. Given all the ones we love, you come away feeling this Sondheim doesn’t have enough music.

Jeff Coon’s the perfect lead as George Seurat he really can sing and he looks the right age and painterly

As Dot, Kristine Freilich’s singing is superb, superior to her acting. She’s a pretty woman but the mousey wig and makeup scream for a makeover. This role walks in the shadow of Bernadette Peters and Dot’s supposed to be the face George paints on every woman!

As Jules, a Seurat rival, Scott Greer is capable of stealing any scene he’s in and almost does as. Greer’s a marvel of tone and gesture. Maureen Torsney -Weir does well with the role of Seurat’s mother; later the imperious critic. Michael McKinsey makes a salty boatman. It’s a pleasure watching all these characters come to life on the Grand Jatte on the Arden stage. Sound and video designer Jorge Coiseneau ‘s hard-working projectors and laptops accomplish a feast for ear and eye. Images not of Parisians’ Seine but ours – on Kelly Drive. Sunday in the Park with George runs until 4th of July.

Written by Lesley Valdes

June 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm