Friday, July 20, 2012

Postcard from Morocco

Thursday night I heard the 1st of 2 Merola Opera performances of Dominick Argento's chamber opera Postcard from Morocco. It's a nonsense work, with 6 characters, strangers at a train station, though if I hadn't known this I would have assumed they were on a boat, since the libretto often refers to travel by ship. The characters behave like paranoid Martians rather than human beings, & I did not understand any of the dramatic situations. However, Argento's music is pretty, & the uniformly secure & confident performances kept my attention. Soprano Suzanne Rigden has a strong, high & brilliant sound, & her voice was easy to pick out even in the ensemble passages. Tenor AJ Glueckert has a sweet yet strong voice & his acting elicited sympathy. Baritone Joseph Lattanzi moves nimbly on stage, & his singing & diction are very clear. Mezzo Carolyn Sproule sang her nonsense language ballad with a seductive, liquid sound.

The simple set consisted of a raised platform with benches, which the 6 performers shifted themselves. Large suspended photographs of a tunnel formed the backdrop. The cast wore early 20th century fashions & looked sharp. The production involves lots of stage business & synchronized gestures, all of which the cast executes with aplomb. Bass Matthew Scollin did 2 cartwheels in a small space. Mr. Lattanzi & tenor Andrew Stenson manipulated puppets attached to their heads. Mr. Glueckert received applause for making a balloon animal. A musical number called Souvenirs de Bayreuth was fully choreographed.

A small band of 8 played alertly for conductor Mark Morash, who conducted with precision. It was novel to hear the guitar as part of the orchestra. The Merola audience enjoyed the stage antics & applauded warmly at the end. Seagulls on the pier outside sometimes squawked during quiet moments, though I don't know if it was criticism or approval. The performance ran an intermissionless 90 minutes & will be repeated Saturday, July 21 at 2pm with the same cast.

§ Postcard from Morocco
by Dominick Argento
Sung in English with English supertitles

Merola Opera Program
Conductor: Mark Morash
Director: Peter Kazaras
Choreographer: Melecio Estrella

Lady with a Cake Box: Aviva Fortunata
Man with a Paint Box: AJ Glueckert
Man with a Shoe Sample Kit: Joseph Lattanzi
Lady with a Hand Mirror: Suzanne Rigden
Man with a Cornet Case (also a Puppet Maker): Matthew Scollin
Lady with a Hat Box (also a Foreign Singer): Carolyn Sproule
Man with Old Luggage: Andrew Stenson

Violin: Tatiana Freedland
Viola: Patricia Heller
Bass: Andrew Butler
Clarinet/saxophone: Mike Corner
Trombone: Donald Kennelly
Guitar: Paul Psarros
Keyboards: Sun Ha Yoon
Percussion: Scott Bleaken

Thursday, July 19, 8 PM
Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center

§ Photo credit: Andrew Stenson and Joseph Lattanzi
Photo by Kristen Loken

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