Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Figaro Plays

Yesterday afternoon David and I and Peggy and Jim enjoyed the two Figaro Plays of Pierre Beaumarchais, translated, adapted and directed by Steven Wadsworth at McCarter Theatre at Princeton University. We were all familiar with the operas that used these plays as libretti, and it was interesting to see the original inspiration for them.
  Steve Wadsworth

The first, The Barber of Seville , was turned into an  opera by Rossini. David and I had seen this performed at Chicago Lyric Opera this season in a rather tepid performance. The second, The Marriage of Figaro, was, of course, Mozart's take on the story.

The cast included Neal Bledsoe as Count Almaviva, Adam Green as Figaro,Naomi O'Connell as Rosine, Derek Smith as Dr. Bartolo, Burton Curtis as Engarde/Notary, Frank Corrado as LeBebe/Alcade, Jeanne Paulsen as Marceline, Cameron Folmar as Bazile, Cody Buege as Constable, and David Andrew Laws as Constable in The Barber of Seville. In the Marriage of Figaro, the same actors performed their same roles as they did in The Barber of Seville, plus Maggie Lacey as Suzanne, Betsy Hogg as Fanchette, Burton Curtis as Antonio, Cody Buege as Gripe-Soleil/Usher, David Andrew Laws as Pedrillo, Frank Corrado as Brid'oison, Larry Paulson as Doublehands, and Andrew Clark, Kimani Issac, Zoe Mann, Jean Prall Rosolino, and Katie Weinstein as members of the ensemble.

For anyone who knows the operas, the libretto was obviously abridged from the play to fit the music. The direction by Steve Wadsworth was imaginative and fun. He could have edited the second play which went on too long, especially a over-long monologue by Figaro towards the end.

The set by Charles Corcoran was serviceable and evocative. The costumes by Camille Assaf were charming with Spanish overtones.

The cast performed beautifully; a real ensemble effort. Both the Count and Rosine had very good singing voices. 

Steve Wadsworth directed Lorraine in  Ashoka's Dream,  by Peter Lieberson and in Xerxes by Handel in Los Angeles, Boston and at New York City Center. He has the ability to keep the action moving with grace and eloquence. The second act of Marriage  was too long and should have been cut.

I still prefer the operas.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Crescendo- a chorus

This afternoon Alice and I heard a very interesting concert presented by Crescendo, a choral group based in Lakeville, CT. It was conducted by Christine Gevert, who is also its founder. The concert was at Trinity Episcopal Church in Limerock.

The program alternated music by Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer, and Jaime Soto Leon, a Chilean.

Ms. Gevert  put together this program of music from two hemispheres. And the music indeed represented the ethnic differences between northern Euorpeans and South Americans.

Most of the Gjeilo works used a sort of plainchant or chorale idea with pedal points and rather traditional harmonies. The final work of this composer was the only one that expressed much rhythmic energy and the other works all had a great deal in common with each other. Flowing and melodic.

The Leon works, on the other hand were filled with rich South American rhythms and harmonies. If this were dance, I would compare the two styles to ballet and Flamenco. Cold and Hot.

Most of the Gjeilo pieces were a cappella, flowing works with occasional passages of chopped off chords against a viola solo. Nothing too different from other works of this contemporary period. Certainly all were tonal.

The Leon pieces were filled with rich harmonies and exotic rhythms. The wonderful musicians of the Andean Ensemble were Aurelio Dominguez, tenor, Jose Sacin, baritone, percussion, Carlos Boltes, charango, cuatro, ronroco, viola, voice, Scott Hill guitar, voice, Ernesto Bravo, tiple, percussion, zampona, voice, Gonzalo Cortes, quena, flute, voice, Fabio Mateus, quena, flute, voice, Roberto Claviho, zampona, percussion, voice, Rodrigo Tarraza, clarinet, saxophone, and Rudi Weeks, double bass, voice. Many of the instruments were typical of traditional Andean folk instruments, some going back to pre-Colombian times. They were played with great expertize and ardor.

The bass and tenor soloists were amazing. They could step right into a Flamenco Tablao without taking a breath. They sang with fervor and great emotion.

When this group played and sang it was simply electrifying. The choral sound was, by comparison, rather bland. I have just returned from five months in Chicago, where I heard a number of excellent choral concerts. There is something about that mid-western choral sound that is magical. Maybe it's all the beef they eat!

Ms. Gevert gave a very succinct talk about the music beforehand and set the audience up for the concert. She tends to conduct with very large gestures except when conducting the instruments alone, when she cuts her movements back to size.

All in all it was a very interesting concert. I heard a lot of music I had never heard before and I enjoyed it.

I think Leon won!