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Tolomeo at Glimmerglass

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By George Frideric Handel
Glimmerglass Opera
Cooperstown, NY

Friends are driving to Saratoga and Cooperstown. I’m envious. I’ve seen two of the four new productions in Glimmerglass Opera’s repertory this summer and I’m ready to see Handel’s Tolemeo again. If you can manage it, don’t miss the Handel opera
which is being staged only 1 hour 40 minutes west of the Philadelphia Orchestra performances at SPAC. This is the first professional production in the U.S. and it’s winsome: singers, staging, orchestra.

Countertenor Anthony Roth- Costanzo takes the lead: He’s the son of Cleopatra III. A family conspiracy has deprived Tolomeo of his right to the throne and he’s also in danger of losing his beloved wife, Seleuce. He’s that rare breed a one-woman man.
Donald Eastman’s nonlinear staging supports the sense and nonsense of Chas Rader -Sheiber’s witty direction.

Young Scots Christian Curnyn leads a modern band that incorporates baroque continuo. Michael Leopold’s theorobo pokes its long neck up from the pit like a periscope. Leopold also plays baroque arch lute and there are the pleasures of Ruth Berry’s baroque cello and David Moody’s harpsichord.

Tolomeo and his Seleuce are exiled from Egypt to Cyprus where neither can find either other. They’re pursued by nasty royal siblings: Steven LaBrie as skulky King Araspe, Julie Boulianne as the virtuoso Queen in wily boots. Boulianne has a coloratura like a tarantula’s. It is that GOOD. Joelle Harvey plays the beautiful Seleuce and the voice floats.

Tolomeo is a comic and convoluted love story made poignant because of Handel’s da capo arias. There is no chorus. Roth- Costanzo beguiles as the steadfast husband.

The faux baroque production beguiles with its own swerves and surprises. A lovely moment: when Seleuce sings of gentle breezes wafting thoughts to her missing husband the soprano switches on series of electric fans.

There are others: The use of supernumeraries, stooped, as valets for King and Queen, as prep school boy assistants for Alessandro Tolomeo’s rival brother. (Mezzo-soprano Karin Mushegin tales the trousers role of Allesandro.)

Tolomeo’s final performance is August. 23. Also in repertory at Glimmerglass Opera: Tosca, Marriage of Figaro and Tender Land.


Written by Lesley Valdes

August 6, 2010 at 4:30 am

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