* Notes *
Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco was performed last night by the Merola Opera Program at Cowell Theater in San Francisco. This odd one act opera, which premiered in 1971, requires only ninety minutes, seven singers, and eight instrumentalists. The action takes place at a train station, and the waiting travelers all carry particular items, which they sing about but never show. The various scenes are entertainingly absurd, one uses a hula hoop, another a balloon animal. Directed here by Peter Kazaras, the production involves a lot of choreography from Melecio Estrella, which the singers all handle beautifully. The puppet show is particularly striking, as the puppets are worn on hats and manipulated by sticks. Kristi Johnson's costumes use ombré and colorful patterned cloth, and looked good against Nicholas Muni's sedate, neat set. The lighting, designed by Justin Partier, enhances the shifts in focus of the loose narrative.
The singing was strong. Bass-baritone Matthew Scollin was vaguely sinister as A Puppet Master, and funny as A Man with the Cornet Case. He is wonderfully expressive in his face and even did some cartwheels. Suzanne Rigden was a bright-toned Lady with a Hand Mirror. Joseph Lattanzi made for a slick shoe salesman and was hilarious with Andrew Stenson when they both played puppets. Lattanzi is an exceptionally good dancer. Stenson's tenor is rather pretty, and he juggled the roles of First Puppet, A Man with the Old Luggage, and An Operetta Singer with aplomb.
Carolyn Sproule made a clear distinction in both singing and posture when she played A Foreign Singer and A Lady with a Hat Box, the former being much more sultry, and the latter rather coy. As A Lady with a Cake Box, soprano Aviva Fortunata sang with much power. Her voice is robust and penetrating, but her quiet notes were loveliest. Tenor AJ Glueckert was most impressive as A Man with the Paint Box. His pleasantly brassy voice has volume without strain.
* Tattling *
There was some light talking from the audience, perhaps because the opera is unusual and has no intermission.