Saturday, July 19, 2014

A heroine's welcome, and then some opera

That's a paraphrase of a New York Times headline when James Levine returned briefly to the pit a few years ago to conduct Wozzeck. Today's heroine was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was given a well-deserved standing ovation when she was introduced by Francesca Zambello. What followed was a scenes program both charming and moving, with a legal theme. Justice Ginsburg introduced each scene, and provided pithy commentary as well. The scenes were very well performed by members of the Young Artists Program, with pianists David Moody and Kevin Miller. The scenes were staged by Conor Hanratty and Joshua T. Miller. I must say I liked all the singing, and I found the staging of all the scenes effective, but there is neither time nor space to evaluate them all. If I omit names it does not indicate any displeasure at all, for nothing on the program displeased me.

Justice Ginsburg and Francesca Zambello
presented a similar program in 2013
Photo: Karli Cadel, Glimmerglass Opera
One of my favorites scenes was first on the program, the well-known sextet from Act III of Le Nozze di Figaro. In brief, Figaro is trying to wriggle out of a debt to Marcellina that obliges him to marry her, and in the course of arguing over the matter it is discovered Marcellina is really his mother. I especially liked the Susanna of Jasmine Habersham and the Marcellina of Claudia Chapa, as well as the Figaro of Matthew Scollin.

You might recall I recently saw Madison Opera's performance of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, and wrote of how moved I was. Ben Edquist and Courtney Miller presented the confession scene with admirable vocalism and acting. I was in tears the entire scene both from the performance in front of me and the memory of Madison's production. I do wish the excerpt had not ended before Sister Helen offers Joseph God's forgiveness and her own. Pianist David Moody also deserves special mention for this scene's difficult score.

I was charmed and delighted by the excerpt from Derrick Wang's opera Scalia/Ginsburg. Soprano Jacqueline Echols easily moved from full-on coloratura soprano to sultry, jazzy chanteuse and back in this highly amusing pastiche of styles and actual musical quotes from other operas.

Other vocal standouts include Marco Cammarota as Pinkerton in a Madama Butterfly excerpt and Jennifer Root as Leonore in a Fidelio excerpt.

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