I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dimitrie Lazich about this year’s “SummerFest.” The gifted young baritone has proven to be a comic and vocal delight as the slightly buffoonish “Gangster,” who clearly takes his lead from the equally entertaining Valerie Hosler, in this year’s productions of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, and he will perform the role of Barber Schneidebart in The Silent Woman, Richard Strauss’ super-rarity, which will receive two performances only at the Falk Auditorium of Winchester Thurston this Friday, July 22, at 7:30, and Sunday, July 24, at the 2:00 matinee.
He is an engaging conversationalist, but it was somewhat of a challenge to coax him to speak of his career, as he is a refreshingly modest singing actor who was more interested in discussing the work of the company and his compatriots than himself. With a little encouragement, I was able to learn that he knew from a very young age that his career would be in the theater, initially with thoughts of being an actor, before pursuing piano lessons and eventually discovering that he had a voice. The discovery was especially fortunate in that his father is the Belgrade born Milutin Lazich, himself a bass and Professor Emeritus of Voice and the Director of Choirs at Clarion University, who holds a Master’s Degree in Voice, Vocal Pedagogy, and Opera and Choral Conducting. Voice coaching started with his father when Dimitrie was 16, and before long he was accepted at Carnegie Mellon University and then The Curtis Institute of Music as a vocal performer.
When it became clear that discussing his own accomplishments was not his favorite subject, a little research turned up an impressive resume that included his professional European debut with the Staatsoper Stuttgart (Germany), and he has performed a wide variety of roles, both standard and contemporary, with De Nederlandse Reisopera (The Netherlands), Dorset Opera and the Longborough Festival Opera (both in the U.K.), the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Cleveland Opera, Skylight Opera Theater (Milwaukee), Sarasota Opera, and, of course, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. He’s done a considerable amount of work on the concert stage as well.
I first heard him in The Merry Widow in a “SummerFest” performance a couple of years ago, and was immediately impressed by his singing and acting abilities. One of the qualities that struck me most was his amazingly clear and precise English diction, a definite advantage in his appearances with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, as all of their productions are presented in the vernacular as opposed to the original language of the book or libretto. Since that time, I have been equally impressed by his appearances in Pittsburgh Opera productions of Carmen, Daughter of the Regiment and the current “SummerFest” production of Kiss Me, Kate. He confessed that he was coached in acquiring a New York/Brooklyn accent for the last by his wife, soprano Maria D’Amato, and father-in-law, both native to the “lingo,” and that he has enjoyed a return to musical comedy. He also stated that his role in The Silent Woman has been his greatest challenge to date. The work abounds in quick changes of key and rapid-fire dialogue, and even with cuts, the performances will run a little under three hours.
The Silent Woman, which until now has never been performed in Pennsylvania, tells the tale of retired Admiral John Morosus, a role that will be taken by Jeremy Galyon, the gifted bass who was sensational in last summer’s Capriccio. Virtually deafened by an explosion during his service, the Admiral is a cantankerous loner with no tolerance for the “noise” of society, seen rarely by those other than his barber (Mr. Lazich) and housekeeper (Fiona McArdle). His barber suggests marriage to one of the many “quiet doves” he knows who would be honored to brighten his solitary existence. As Morosus warms to the idea, his long-lost nephew Henry (William Andrews) appears. Morosus forgets marriage and makes Henry his “son and heir”. But when Henry reveals that he and his wife Aminta (Julia Fox) manage an opera troupe, Morosus, disdainful of the theater, throws the troupe out of his house and disinherits Henry. He instructs his barber to make good on his promise of a “quiet dove.” When Aminta, an opera singer herself, laments that she has played a part in depriving her husband of his inheritance, the barber hatches a plan to prove to Morosus the worth of his nephew’s troupe. A sham marriage to a “quiet dove” (who will prove to be anything but), is orchestrated by the singing actors, and when the ensuing bedlam almost reduces Morosus to the breaking point, Henry and Aminta remorsefully disclose the charade. Morosus, with relief and a renewed sense of humor, blesses the pair and reinstates Henry as his heir. The cast will also feature Laura DellaFera (Isotta), Migle Zaliukaite (Carlotta), Matthew Maisano (Morbio), John Scherch (Vanuzzi) and James Eder (Farfallo) as the opera singers of the troupe.
“The cast is doing a wonderful job with this show,” Mr. Lazich stressed. “They deserve so much credit for rehearsing, knowing their material and music, and having a strong sense of each character. They have made this experience really quite easy and fun. So much of the credit is deserved by Conductor Brent McMunn, Director Jonathan Eaton, and Stephen Variames, the rehearsal pianist. Everyone has been a great colleague.”
In addition to the two upcoming performances of The Silent Woman, Mr. Lazich will appear in the final presentation of Kiss Me, Kate, on Saturday, July 23, at 2:00. Please visit “SummerFest” for tickets, plot synopses, cast information and more, as we move into the final week of this year’s events!
“SummerFest” Photos – Patti Brahim
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