Monday, August 24, 2015

Fidelity's enemy is time

On Sunday I saw the third of five performances of Rosina, by Hiram Titus with libretto by Barbara Field based on characters in Beaumarchais, commissioned by Minnesota Opera and first performed in 1980. Mr. Titus (1947-2013) was known primarily for musical theater and film scores, including the 1987 film "The Little Mermaid".  This is part of dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's  Beaumarchais Trilogy, which also includes Mozart's beloved Le Nozze di Figaro and the little-performed Paisiello Il Barbiere di Siviglia. I've posted about Nozze, and will post about the Paisiello Barbiere quite soon.

Marie Masters
Photo: Kelly Kruse
In this opera the Countess (Rosina) has run away with Cherubino, a bit more grown up and now a tenor. They've been living in Madrid and have a baby. The Count has tracked them down and now comes in a useless disguise (la precauzione inutile?) and in the company of a courtesan. Opera things happen, as they say, and in the end the Countess and her child go back to Seville with the Count, and Cherubino and the courtesan are together.

Recall that I'm a bel canto bear, and not really qualified to speak intelligently about newer works like this, but I can say I found several scenes quite effective, including one between Rosina and the courtesan Amparo, and an aria for Rosina in which she muses over having no real choices of her own ahead of her--just options provided by men. On the other hand, the scene in which the Count and Cherubino talk about women on a familiar level meant to suggest an avuncular or friendly relationship seemed a bit unlikely.

The performances sold me on this piece. Marie Masters as Rosina was a lovely standout. Hers is a light lyric voice, consistently free and beautiful from high to low. Her bio and her web site include roles and excerpts ranging from Ă„nnchen and Gilda to Donna Anna and Lady Billows. (I know young singers are always a work in progress, but frankly, I hope she keeps the lighter roles in her repertoire a few years longer, for the way she handles the high and light passages is quite lovely.) To say she negotiated well the vocal challenges of her role, from wide leaps to extensive legato singing in every part of her range, would be an understatement. Her Rosina had the dignity of Mozart's Countess, along with a touch of humility related to her present, reduced circumstances.

Christopher Lilley sang Cherubino. His bio lists roles like Tamino and the Liebeslieder Singer quartet in A Little Night Music, both of which he would have sung very well if Sunday was any indication. Although I didn't find the solo passages he was tasked with as gratifying as those given to Rosina, I must praise his singing and his handling of the vocal writing, particularly his high voice. Elizabeth Bouk sang the courtesan Amparo quite well, and gave even the predictable passages about the courtesan's life and her difficult upbringing charm and beauty. Min Gu Yeo sang the Count's music with gruff affect and rich baritonal sound, but I would like to have seen more depth in his characterization.

The Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra played very well under Music Director and company Artistic Director Christopher Fecteau--quite possibly the best I heard the group play in the festival.

A chaotic scene from Rosina
Photo: Karen Rich

There are more performances of this work on August 28 and 30. I'd recommend seeing it.

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