A selective guide to arts commentaries in print and websites elsewhere.
Introduction to Broad Street Review, plus biographies and contact points for our editors and contributors.
See a list of coming appearances by BSR's writers.
Poor Richard’s ‘Opera a Day’ (2nd review)BY: Steve Cohen 09.25.2011
Most one-act operas can’t stand on their own. The Poor Richard’s company performed a service by presenting five that pass the test, including two I saw.
Poor Richard’s “Opera a Day”: Menotti: The Old Maid and the Thief. Bernstein: Trouble in Tahiti. Poor Richard’s Opera Company, September 5-10, 2011 at Trinity Center for Urban Life, 2212 Spruce St. (215) 413-1318 or poorrichardsopera.wordpress.com.
Hors d’oeuvres by Menotti and BernsteinSTEVE COHEN
One night at the Metropolitan Opera for a performance of Salome, I found myself seated next to a large Texan. “I see in the program that this performance ends at 9:45,” he drawled to me. “They do another show after it, don’t they?”
“They sure don’t,” I had to reply.
When I was a kid, however, double bills of one-act operas were as common as Sunday doubleheaders in baseball. The demanding Salome was accompanied by short works like Gianni Schicchi, Pagliacci or Amelia Goes to the Ball.
Salome can, and does, stand on its own, but most other one-acters don’t. Consequently their appearance is quite limited nowadays. So it was a good gimmick, and a useful one, for the Poor Richard’s company to present “An Opera a Day,” a series of five one-hour operas over the span of five days.
BSR’s Tom Purdom saw and reviewed two of the five operas (click here) while I attended two others later in the week.
Menotti rejects the ’30s
Gian Carlo Menotti wrote The Old Maid and the Thief at age 28, in 1939, shortly after he graduated from Curtis Institute. It’s a lightweight comedy about infatuation, misunderstandings and petty crime.
Menotti rejected most compositions of the 1930s and wrote melodies that recalled bel canto style. He provided pleasing arias and duets for each of the main characters: an unmarried landlady, her friend, her young and handsome tenant, and her servant who flirts with the tenant. Hope Knight, Sydney de Lapeyrouse and Matthew Fisher were especially good in their roles.
Bernstein’s suburban parents
Leonard Bernstein’s bittersweet Trouble in Tahiti, written in his prime in 1952, is a superior piece that deserves greater exposure. It centers on the troubled marriage of a couple based on Bernstein’s own parents.
A few years later, Bernstein wrote a full-length serious opera with these characters, called A Quiet Place (produced last season by the New York City Opera.) He incorporated Trouble In Tahiti into A Quiet Place as its second of three acts.
The ringing baritone Paul Corujo, playing Sam the husband in this Philadelphia production, convincingly resembled the young man he was supposed to be. Maja Lisa Fritzhuspen, as his wife, was visually and vocally appealing as she sang the plaintive melodies that Bernstein assigned to her.
A trio who might have stepped out of a Bernstein Broadway show like On the Town or Wonderful Town sang satirically about the pleasures of suburban life: “Mornin’ sun kisses the windows...of the little white house in Scarsdale...” Extra verses change the suburb to Shaker Heights, Ohio and even Elkins Park, Pa.
Trouble in Tahiti attracted the week’s biggest audience, probably due to the Bernstein name. Those who came got more than their money’s worth.♦
Respond to this Article