Sunday, May 15, 2016

Essere o non essere - questo è il problema

On Saturday evening, Opera Delaware opened its 2016 Opera Festival with a much-anticipated production of Franco Faccio's Amleto (Hamlet) and a very happy return to Wilmington's Grand Opera House. One almost doesn't know what to report first--the beautiful production, the extremely fine performances, the opera itself, or Opera Delaware's tremendous achievement of returning to financial stability and growth after a few somewhat uncertain years. (Opera Delaware's comeback story has been well documented elsewhere, and will have to be a separate article in these pages.)

Joshua Kohl as Amleto, with friend
Photo:  Moonloop Photography
The opera itself is the primary news item, having been rescued from obscurity only recently. A collaboration between Faccio (1840-1891) and librettist Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), Amleto was a success at its 1865 premiere in Genoa. The autograph had been in the Ricordi archives since 1871, however--never performed after a much less successful La Scala debut. Conductor and composer Anthony Barrese began reconstructing the work in 2003 from images of faded and marked up autograph pages. It was first performed on these shores in productions by Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Southwest in 2014.

As usual my focus is primarily on the performances, and I was happy with every singer on stage. First and foremost I must report that tenor Joshua Kohl was a tremendous Amleto (Hamlet). Beautiful singing throughout, powerful stage presence, gripping characterization are just some of the accolades I could shower on this gifted young singer. The aria after the ghost of his father implores Amleto to avenge his murder was a wonder.

Joshua Kohl as Amleto
Lara Tillotson as Geltrude
Photo: Moonloop Photography
Ofelia (Ophelia) was sung by Sarah Asmar, whom we were told might be coming down with a cold. We heard no evidence of illness in her beautiful tone, and like her stage lover, she gripped the audience every moment she was on stage.

Geltrude (Gertrude) was sung just as beautifully by Lara Tillotson, and Claudio (Claudius) was sung and acted with great skill by Timothy Mix. The ghost of Hamlet's father was sung by commanding and sonorous bass Ben Wager, with great authority and commitment.

Mr. Barrese led the Opera Delaware Orchestra with a skilled hand, and the chorus, prepared by Jeffrey Miller, deserves applause, as well. The dancers, members of the First State Ballet Theater, were a delight.

The production was spare but beautiful. Although costumed as a traditional production of Hamlet, the set was constructed of various platforms on scaffolding, and made skillful use of projections. (Sets by Peter Tupitza, costumes by Howard Tsui Kaplan for Malabar Ltd.) It worked well for this production, and was easily morphed into the set for the concurrently running Falstaff.

Amleto will be performed again next weekend. I hope anyone who can will be there to see it!

No comments: