Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm Henry the Eighth, I am, I am!

I've certainly been on a bel canto binge lately, and loving it! Your intrepid reporter braved unspeakable humidity and the fear of actually getting wet in the rain* to hear Mr. Donizetti's lovely Anna Bolena on Sunday, August 15. (Having seen and reviewed the Munich production of Roberto Devereux recently, I lack only Maria Stuarda to make it a "Tudor trilogy" summer. I have no plans to see Maria Stuarda soon, largely because I know of no nearby organization presenting it, so I must make do with my DVD of the scandalous Baby Jane-inspired Berlin production of a few years ago. As soon as the scoundrel who borrowed it returns it to me.) Anna Bolena was presented by Opera Manhattan Repertory Theater as part of their summer series of operas in concert. As founder and General Manager V.W. Smith (a.k.a. barihunk Bryce Smith) explained before the concert began, these are mostly young singers at the beginning stages of their careers. In addition to providing beautiful music for an eager public, these concerts also give the singers valuable experience and credits on their resumes.

Anna Bolena is, of course, the story of Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII's wives. The opera tells of the plotting to remove Anne from the throne so that Henry could marry Jane Seymour. (He'd already gotten rid of Catharine of Aragon, wife no. 1, by that time. Inexplicably, Mr. Donizetti didn't write an opera about that story.) Infidelity, blood lust, conspiracy--normal opera stuff. Henry himself was sung by bass David Morrow, who was among the better singers. He has an impressive, blustery bass sound, and understood how to act his role.

The true star of the evening, however, was Michelle Trovato. The lovely Miss Trovato sang with passion, intelligence, commitment, and most importantly, a beautiful, rich, even tone. She convincingly portrayed the wronged queen's many emotions, from conflicted fear and joy at seeing her former flame Percy returned to England (it's all part of a plot, of course) to the the obligatory near-mad scene finale. Speaking of that finale, I've never enjoyed not breathing more! From "Piangete voi?" to the final chords of "Coppia iniqua!", Miss Trovato held the entire room in her sway. Rarely does your reporter leap to his feet and shout "Brava!"--who are we kidding? he never leaps to his feet to do anything except get to dinner--but in this case his emotions got the better of him! As we say in journalistic parlance, Woo-hoo!

The music director and accompanist for this extravaganza was the lovely Susan Morton, known around town as a very fine coach and accompanist of singers, as well as an Italian language coach for singers. One could detect her skillful hand in the quality of Italian diction in the singers, and the general level of preparation.

Opera Manhattan has two more of these concert opera productions. They will perform Die Zauberflöte on August 21 and 22, and Eugene Onegin on August 27 and 29. I highly recommend them.

*Actually, having hied me on foot from Grand Central to the performance space on West 54th St., I found myself mysteriously moist anyway. It was like my body was crying! What's that about?


Anonymous said...

I hope there were penguins - because it's just not an opera without penguins.

nycmomma said...

Love your reviews! You give a great feeling for the performance and your love of opera and singers sure shines through.