Thursday, November 17, 2011

Columnist reviews opera

By Dianne McGinness, A&E Columnist

From a demon barber in London, England to housewives in Orange County, Calif., students in the Pacific Lutheran University opera series sang it all. “Gianni Schicchi” and “Great Moments in Opera” premiered Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. and ran through Nov. 13 on the main stage of Eastvold Auditorium.

Great Moments in Opera

The first part of the opera was composed of six scenes from different operas including “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi, “The Tenderland” by Aaron Copland, “Nabucco” by Giuseppe Verdi, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” by Douglas Moore, “Lakmé” by Léo Delibes, and “Sweeney Todd” by Stephen Sondheim.

A narrator introduced each scene and told the audience the name, composer, setting and mechanics of the upcoming scene. It was difficult to catch all of what was going on in these descriptions.

“It’s easy to watch,” Director and Chair of Vocal Studies Barry Johnson said. “The scenes move so fast that if you don’t like something it will be over in ten minutes. It’s a really great time.”

The first act moved along quickly, with each scene flowing right into the next.

“It’s nice to be onstage for the whole scene,” junior Erin White said about performing in a scene from “Falstaff.” “At the end of the scene, our quartet sings a song where we kind of sounds like clucking chickens because the words are so fast.”

Though each scene used minimal props, the performers made up for it with their talented voices.

The scenes from “Lakmé” and “Sweeney Todd” stood out.

“Dôme éspais, le jasmine” from “Lakme” featured junior Stephanie Bivins and senior Sorayah Surkatty, whose voices blended perfectly together.

An extended applause from the audience and “bravos” shouted from the man in front of me told me the audience enjoyed it immensely as well.

The energy and humor in the “Sweeney Todd” scene had the audience laughing hysterically. This was also one of the only scenes to feature a chorus, which I really liked because it was great to see so many people on stage enjoying themselves.

Parts of “Great Moments in Opera” were difficult to understand because of the pitch or the vibrato. A projector was used to display the English translations for the foreign languages, but it would have been helpful to also have the English words on the screen for the piece in English as well.

Gianni Schicchi

During the intermission, the stage transformed into the set of an Italian home in the 1950s.

“Gianni Schicchi” by Giacoma Puccini told the story of Schicchi and his daughter Lauretta. Lauretta wants to marry Rinuccio, the nephew of Buoso Donati, a man who has just passed away and left his fortune to a monastery.

Schicchi and Lauretta go to Buoso Donati’s house to help rewrite Donati’s will, since he has left his greedy relatives in an uproar. Schicchi agrees to impersonate Buoso Donati and ends up obtaining the greatest parts of the estate as a result.

Director and Chair of Vocal Studies Barry Johnson decided to double cast the roles in “Gianni Schicchi.”

“We want to give as many people the opportunity to perform as possible,” Johnson said. “It’s all about the opportunity.”

Junior Brendan Fitzgerald sang passionately in the leading role of Gianni Schicchi.

“It’s a pretty big part,” Fitzgerald said. “The hardest part is the Italian, getting through the words, and memorizing them.”

Fitzgerald did an excellent job acting while singing in Italian.

His portrayal of the part helped me understand what was occurring onstage, despite the language barrier, even though the words were projected overhead. He played up the humor of the moment and got the audience involved.

“Gianni Schicchi” featured one of the most famous arias of all time, “O Mio Babbino Caro,” performed by the character Lauretta, played by junior Erin White.

“I actually learned the song in high school so it has been with me a long time,” White said. “There is a little bit of pressure since everyone knows it.”

White's voice fit beautifully with the tone of the song and she fully engaged the audience.

Overall, I enjoyed the opera. I commend everyone for putting on such a great performance. It was a great show to be in the audience for.