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17.10.05

Opera Bel Cantanti

Donizetti, La Fille du Régiment, Opera Bel Cantanti, October 16, 2005I had meant to see Opera Bel Cantanti's little production of Donizetti's comic opera La Fille du Régiment (premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1840) earlier this month but never made it. French Cultural Attaché Roland Celette did see it and was so impressed that he invited the troupe to La Maison Française on Sunday evening, October 16, for an extra performance, which I finally managed to hear. Of the many interesting programs I have heard at the French embassy, this dippy little opera drew the largest crowd I have ever seen there, absolutely packing and sucking all of the good air out of the small auditorium.

Other Reviews:

Mark J. Estren, Bel Cantanti Opera (Washington Post, September 20)

T. L. Ponick, 'La Fille' fills bill as light offering (Washington Times, September 20)
Cities need minor opera companies, who present small-scale, affordable productions for the public at large. In that context, this production was a decent rendition of a silly opera, with its ups and downs in personnel. The two lead women were quite good, especially soprano Meghan McCall (Marie, the title role), who handled the vocal pyrotechnics and the comic acting of her role capably. She has just begun the masters program at the University of Maryland's Maryland Opera Studio, as a student of bass-baritone François Loup, so we will hopefully have more opportunities to hear her in this area for the next couple years. Mezzo-soprano Andrea Hill sang well as the Marquise de Berkenfield and had a better sense of French pronunciation than most in the cast. Among the male roles, baritone Matthew Osifchin (Sergeant Sulpice) was good, with a consistent voice. Tenor Lucas Tannous (Tonio) sounded pretty good on the merciless string of high C's in the famous aria "Ah! mes amis" in the first act. It was the other high notes below those high C's that sometimes gave the impression that the singer's head was going to explode from strain. Contributions from the supporting string quartet (with the company's director, Dr. Katerina Souvorova, playing capably at the keyboard) and the male chorus were uneven.

Opera Bel Cantanti continues with a fairly full season this fall. We are hoping to hear their spring productions of two rarely heard Russian one-act operas, Rachmaninov's Aleko in February and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta in April. In my humble opinion, this is the best reason that minor opera companies exist, to perform works that never get done by large companies.

5 comments:

Clayton K. said...

Thanks for the comment on importance of small opera companies! I've heard some wonderful stuff by such companies in Baltimore recently, and the Peabody Conservatory's own opera theater group did a magical Cendrillon by Massenet last year.

Charles T. Downey said...

Summer Opera did "Cendrillon" this summer, too. It's a neat opera.

Ariadne said...

Hey, that reminds me - could someone please do a list of the "minor" opera companies?

This stuff is just too good to miss!

Charles T. Downey said...

Andrea,
Well, most of the opera companies I know about are in the Ionarts list of Music in Washington. I need to add Opera Bel Cantanti to that. Anyone else know of any others?

Ariadne said...

Wow - That's great, Charles, thanks! (That post was from before Madame began frequenting the ionarts salon...)

Looks like some other good venues & performers to explore. "Suspicious Cheese Lords" just begs for a look-see!

Can you please add my Conservatory Buddy Jed Gaylin's [Johns] Hopkins Symphony to the Baltimore listings? Jed Gaylin is an excellent, widely travelled, well respected and experienced young conductor. Worth watching (and hearing). Nice guy, too. Very personable. Participates regularly in WBJC phoneathon madness with Jonathan Palevsky & Co...

Speaking of madness with Palevsky & Co., suggest you add Ed Polochick's Concert Artists of Baltimore and Tom Hall's Baltimore Choral Arts. Both highly respected and put on very fine and enjoyable concerts.