Merola Opera Program's L'Amico Fritz
July 25, 2009
* Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's production of L'Amico Fritz opened at the Cowell Theater last night. The offstage chorus sounded angelic and the supporting cast was strong. Even the tiny part of Caterina was sung and acted well by Susannah Biller. Eleazar Rodríguez and Yohan Yi were amusing as the rakish Federico and Hanezò. Maya Lahyani started off with a few gasps in the trouser role of Beppe, but was in good voice for the rest of the performance. Her two arias, especially the second, "O pallida, che un giorno mi guardasti," were lovely. Aleksey Bogdanov was convincing as Rabbi David, he began a bit quietly but improved steadily over the course of the evening. As the female lead, Sara Gartland (Suzel) looked the part, her movements were naive and perfect for a farmer's young daughter. She was also on the quiet side at the beginning, perhaps because she was so far upstage. There was strain at the top of her voice and a certain rawness that was still appealing, particularly in the last act. Nathaniel Peake was charming as Fritz himself, his tenor is sweet and light, but also warm.
The production, from Nic Muni, offered some gorgeous costumes and a set of nice clean lines. The staging for the "Cherry Duet" was not coherent somehow, with Peake inside the house suggested by a raked platform, and Gartland outside on a pile of sawdust with the cherry tree. Otherwise, one could appreciate that the production was not completely straight and traditional, and it was enjoyable to watch the lead characters walk through the invisible walls in Act III during that last duet.
The orchestra sounded pretty awful during the first two acts, even under the direction of Warren Jones, who clearly knows the work inside and out. The violin solo in Act I did not impress, nor did the clarinet solo later on, though the oboe solo was a welcome relief, and was beautifully played. The brass problems in Act II were painful. They did get it together in Act III, the overture was fine, as was the rest of the performance. One can only imagine they did not have much rehearsal time, and of course, the piece is not standard repertoire.
* Tattling *
The seagulls were audible during the less noisy parts of the music. The audience was well-behaved, aside from some latecomers that were seated during the Act I overture. Only one watch alarm was heard, and no cellular phones rang. During the intermission I overheard a host of one of the Merolini complain about how boring the staging was.