Review by Danny & Terry Gaisin
The concept of an accepted program of familiar arias from classical opera presented in a concert format has faded into a same old, same old listing of ‘Nessun dorma; Habanera; “Au fond du temple Sainte” and the flower duet from Lakmé, usually with the invariable divas & divos. The National Academy Orchestra’s Brott summer Festival has pushed the envelope. Less familiar arias; new voices and program notes defining the actual pieces made this year’s edition a novel experience, especially for aficionados of the genre.
The NAO is a rather unique organization that chooses recent musicological graduates that are then coupled with orchestral section principals on summer hiatus; thus learning the practical in’s & outs of an instrumental career. Having an NAO listing in one’s C.V. almost guarantees professional opportunities; somewhat like a Sheridan College graduation in theatre or creative visual effects. Starting with an almost completely new assemblage is in itself a challenge and over the years there has been some slow starts…lately the technical and cohesion is top drawer from the get-go.
The program did offer some Bizet, but in an orchestral mode that opened the concert. Soloist Andrea Nuñez then introduced the audience to Titania that ‘Philine’ sings in Mignon. The lady is a dynamo with a face that is all smiles…as is her soprano voice. Then Mathieu Abel presented a tender expression of ‘My treasure’ (il mio Tesoro) from Giovanni. Bizet’s introduction of the charismatic bullfighter ‘Escamillo Cassius Clay’; was sung by Joel Allison and a voluptuous trio of Fink; Nuñez & Vaillancourt that can only be described as FUN.
Britten’s operatic take on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream has its comedy relief from ‘Bottom, the weaver who is also the model for today’s ‘Transformers’ toys! Telling about the character’s dream was portrayed as well as sung by Edward Hanlon. The audience giggled, guffawed and finally drowned out the aria with laughter.
Mozart’s Magic Flute (Zauberflőte) is a personal favorite (next costume party invitation: – we’re Papagano & Papagana!). When Jan Vaculike gave us Papagano’s desire for a girl or even a little wife (real bliss), it seemed a perfect underscore for us Gaisins actually celebrating fifty-three years of the same declared ‘bliss’, last night! The segment closed with another Don Giovanni sextet by the same composer in which 2 Donna’s, a Don, and three others hear Elvira sing about being alone in this dark Place. It isn’t; they aren’t and none are Giovanni. to tell more might spoil Act II. The sestetto again tried their best to convey the opera’s moment. Certainly a challenge, but almost accomplished.
Post-interval, Christopher Dunham sang Rodrigo’s ‘Per giunto è il di supremo’, his auto-obituary prior to his execution. A melancholy and sorrowful moment, but a dramatic aria well-emphasized and sung. Then for a change of pace; Amanda Fink gave a cutesy rendition of Barbiere’s ‘Una Voce poco fa’; Rosina’s aria about how affected the singer is by Lindoro. Those familiar with the libretto will realize this Act I, scene II piece let’s one realize that Rosie is a very early women’s libber. Another sestetto from La Cenerentola (‘’Cinderella” with a wicked stepfather & earrings instead of slippers); an excerpt from Bernstein’s Candide – a satirical travelogue; and finally; HMS Pinafore’s “He’s an English Man”. Aside; many years ago, when this scribe was a racing yachtsman of some note; wifey referred to the operetta’s advice “♫ Stay close to your desk, and NEVER go to sea; and you will be a captain in the Queen’s Navy ♪ ”. She dedicated the column to yours truly! The encores were an audience-involved ‘Va pensiero‘; the Hebrew Slaves’ theme from Nabucco that received popularity as an anthem for Italian unity; and the requisite Brindisi (Libiamo from Traviata) again with audience participation.
There were only a few opportunities to hear the NAO musicians, two of which were conducted by apprentice Karl Hirzer who possesses not only methodological talent but has an amazing confidence on the podium. Next Thursday (7/14th @ McIntyre Hall, Mohawk) the NAO will stage ‘Nozze di Figaro’ Mozart’s 1786 opera Buffa. Hint: – if the aria ‘Voi che sapete’ sounds familiar, change the phrasing and sing ‘Joy to the World’… merry Christmas all,