Mozart was in the air last night at the CAPA Theater, when Pittsburgh Opera presented the first of four performances of afterWARds, the composer’s monumental Idomeneo, “re-imagined” by David Paul. The overly-large and cumbersome work is an opera of the famed composer which has often been reworked to make it more palatable and accessible to audiences. While Mozart’s beautiful music, both vocal and orchestral, are on display in abundance in this piece, “as is” stagings of Idomeneo are rare for good reasons. Mr. Paul’s condensed version proves that less can sometimes be more with no damage to the original composer’s artistry, even with additions of projections of animation onto the curtain during the overture, and silent movie-like title cards filling the gaps in the action.
In recent years, Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artist productions have more than held their own on par with the more massively staged works at the Benedum. Last night’s performance as a whole demonstrated once again that smaller, more contemporary stagings are by no means slighted by an orchestra, and that the company can deliver a cast of exceptionally gifted young vocalists with the greatest of ease. Judging from the “buzz” in the departing audience, there was some confusion as to what to make of the minimalistic stage settings and modern costumes, and how these conformed to the complicated psychological drama of four characters on post-Trojan War Crete. Comparative unfamiliarity with Mozart’s Idomeneo and the minimal amount of dramatic action contained in this reworking of the opera may have accounted for some of this reaction.
But even if one opted to simply listen to the orchestra and singers, the evening was one that provided many beauties. Conductor Glenn Lewis and his orchestra–augmented by James Lesniak playing the harpsichord, so necessary to Mozart’s “period sound”–all delivered a solid performance full of fine moments and well balanced dynamics. Volume never hampered the singers, and this, as is the case with all of Mozart’s works composed for theaters about the size of the CAPA auditorium, was in keeping with the composer’s intentions. The overture, so evocative of the storm that lies at the heart of the drama, was executed well by the conductor and instrumentalists, and they provided solid support for the singers throughout.
Ashley Fabian as Ilia, the Trojan princess whose rescue from the storm creates the pivotal crisis of the story, sang her role with silvery tones and a fine understanding of the smooth legato so necessary to operatic vocalism in general, and Mozart’s style in particular. She sang beautifully from her solo entrance which follows the overture until the final dimming of the lights. Caitlin Gotimer displayed a dramatic soprano of quality and agility as Elettra, that mythological, long-suffering daughter of Agamemnon in Greek tragedy and more than one opera. She delivered her music powerfully and skillfully, and possibly carried away the evening’s top vocal honors.
Antonia Botti-Lodovico was effective in the “trouser role” of Idamante, Idomeneo’s son, singing with a smooth, appealingly warm mezzo-soprano voice, and she handled her part well, vocally and in action. Terrence Chin-Loy, as Idomeneo, the war-weary and conflicted King of Crete, sang with a highly expressive, pure tenor voice that easily encompassed the range of emotions of the character. He sang especially well in his first aria, but displayed much ability in breath control and phrasing throughout.
Of the many individual singing accomplishments the evening provided, the four young vocalists were heard at their best in the delightful concerted numbers that employed them all. Mozart’s operas have been captivating audiences for well over two centuries. As long as there are singers so obviously dedicated to blending their voices into such perfectly balanced ensembles, his operas probably have a few more centuries to go before they’ve run their course.
Three more performances of afterWARds will be given, and lovers of beautiful music, well-sung and played, are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to hear the best parts of this Mozart rarity.
For tickets, full production details and more, visit Pittsburgh Opera.
The Artistic Team for afterWARds –
Conductor, Glenn Lewis; Stage Director, David Paul; Scenery/Properties Designer, Christian Fleming; Costume Designer, Jason Bray; Lighting Designer, Todd Nonn; Projection Designer, Caite Hevner; Wig and Makeup Designer, Nicole Pagano; Director of Musical Studies, Mark Trawka; Associate Coach/Pianist, James Lesniak; Assistant Director, Matthew Haney; Stage Manager, Cindy Knight.
Sets & Costumes created by Pittsburgh Opera
David Bachman Photography
A Pittsburgh native, George B. Parous began his studies of music and the ‘cello in grade school before his interests turned to opera, its performers and history while in his teens. He has been acknowledged as a contributor or editor of several published works (the first being “Rosa Raisa, A Biography of a Diva,” Northeastern University Press, 2001), and is currently working on his own biography of the German-American dramatic soprano, Johanna Gadski, who sang at the Metropolitan during the “Golden Age of Opera.” A retired IT Analyst, he is an avid genealogist, and has traced his maternal line to 8th century Wessex, England. He’s been a contributor to Pittsburgh in the Round since 2014.
Categories: Archived Reviews