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Posts Tagged ‘Chas Rader-Sheiber

The (opera) Houses of Capulet & Montague

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Romeo et Juliette, by Charles Gounod
Opera Company of Philadelphia
February 11, 13m, 16, 18, 20m, 2011
Academy of Music
Review of Feb. 13m, Airs on WRTI, 90.1 Fm. Feb. 16

Turning the rival families of Romeo et Juliette into fashion houses should work a lot better than it does in the Gounod opera at the Academy of Music., the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s collaboration with director Manfried Schweigkofler of Bolzano, Italy, needs clarity. And consistency if the conceit is going to stick.

If the production confuses, the musical values are very strong, Maestro Jacques Lacombe steering orchestra and chorus and Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez as the star- crossed lovers, make this production finer than worthwhile. Some secondary roles are nicely sung –from the larger role of Taylor Stayton’s alert Tybalt to the smaller of Elena Belfiore’s energetic Stephano. Several of these are debuts, newcomers lost in the shuffle and blocking of designer Nora Veneri’s set, a design way too traditional for those accustomed to cable TV’s “Runway” feuds or fans of “The Devil Wears Prada.”

This Romeo et Juliette feels like switching channels from teen fashion to a 19th century opera the way Veneri sets the stage — for which I also blame this company’s production house, which made the set.

The design rotates a giant white stairway to imply Juliette’s bedroom, balcony, the Friar’s cell, the lovers’ tomb. It’s ugly. A hip apartment for these youth might have been suggested with or without projections. Since fashion is the concept it’s odd the stairs are never worked as runways for the designer-models parading the Houses of Capulet and Montague.

This update views Juliette as a celebrity model who wants out, Gertrude is her confidant. Paris (Siddhartha Misra) is a magazine mogul– but you’d hardly know who the poor fellow is the way he’s blocked.

Worse is the silliness that passes for wit. EG: the fight scenes: Death by hammer for Tybalt (Taylor Stayton) who wields street signs.

After the infamous sleeping potion, this production has supernumeraries race through the Academy of Music hawking newspapers with “Juliette’s suicide!”

“Newspapers! I’d prefer CNN,” the man next to me said.
I thought about “Entertainment Tonight.”

Costello and Perez (who in real life are wed, and two more of the Academy of Vocal Arts’ triumphs, convey great longing. Costello forced some high notes at the Sunday matinee but the beauty of his tenor is in the tone and nuance. Perez spun a firmly radiant soprano; all of their duets persuaded, the final love scene was heart-rending despite the ill-conceived tomb. It was steeply raked toward the stage rear: unkind to sight and projection.

The Opera Company has a well-honed chorus. Its commentaries were finely delivered. A deft touch was robing them to conceal the evening attire, varied with finesse hair to heels by costumer Richard St. Clair. Supernumeraries have not looked so good in seasons here. If only the set had not been so level – so horizontally dull – to the eye.

The students from three design schools at Drexel, Moore College, and the Philadelphia University contributed good work and modeled their fashions. Next production, the company might consider PAFA or another art school for help with the set.

Strong singing actors and musicians deserve an update that’s really up to date.

I’d like to see what Chas Rader- Scheiber could do with this concept.

This commentary was expanded from the two minute review for Temple Radio, WRTI. org.

Photo Credits: Kelly and Massa Photography


Written by Lesley Valdes

February 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

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