OuterStage comments on The Marriage of Figaro
The Review of the Bronx Opera Company’s The Marriage of Figaro
reviewed by Inola M. McGuire
The production of the Bronx Opera Company of The Marriage of Figaro was a performance fit for venues in Manhattan in terms of its quality. The sets and costumes were outstanding; and the actors’ performances were exceptional. In retrospect, Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre is as good as any other location to showcase such a production. The hard work and the dedication of the actors are realized on stage with their singing all Arias in English… The audience was in high spirits of this production, and I know they enjoyed their time in the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College. It is a quality production.
Selected reviews of BxO’s January 2014 production of Kirke Mechem’s sparkling opera The Rivals:
Steve Smith of The New York Times: Jan 12, 2014
Playing Composer, of Course, to Impress
Bronx Opera Company’s The Rivals at the Lovinger Theater
At a time when opportunities for gifted emerging opera composers blazing all manner of new stylistic trails appear to be proliferating, there’s something to be said for a company willing to go to bat for fresh pieces by veteran creators working in conventional modes. Kudos, then, to the Bronx Opera Company, which opened its 47th season on Saturday night with The Rivals, a 2002 comic opera by Kirke Mechem, in the Lovinger Theater at Lehman College. Mr. Mechem, born in Wichita, Kan., and based in San Francisco at 88, is a skillful composer especially admired for his vocal music. Tartuffe, his first opera, has played more than 350 times since its 1980 San Francisco Opera premiere.
Mr. Mechem fashioned his own libretto for The Rivals, his third opera, relocating an 18th-century Sheridan comedy from Bath, England, to Newport, R.I., around 1900. The tale centers on Jack Absolute, a British naval captain who has concocted a fictitious alter ego — Waverley, an impoverished opera composer — to woo Lydia Larkspur, an American heiress who dreams of living in “charming poverty” in a Parisian garret. The couple are surrounded with a small cadre of friends, lovers, servants and, yes, rivals.
Naturally, confusion ensues. Deftly juggling nine substantial roles, Mr. Mechem sets their entanglements awhirl with his buoyant melodies, supple harmonies and perky rhythms. In spirit, The Rivals harks to Rossini and Donizetti; in sound, it weds Puccini’s generous lyricism to the dancing meters of Bernstein’s Candide.
Mr. Mechem’s libretto is bright and witty, especially in the high-flown errors he concocts for Mrs. Malaprop, that marvelous Sheridan character whose name became synonymous with linguistic blunders. The music unfailingly suits the words with its airy lines, elegant ensembles and sly allusions: a whiff of La Bohème each time Lydia dreams of noble destitution, for instance.
Among Saturday’s cast, one of two in rotation, Mario Diaz-Moresco was a suave Jack Absolute, and Julie-Anne Hamula a properly dreamy, petulant Lydia. Caroline Tye provided good-natured puffery as Mrs. Malaprop. Rogelio Peñaverde sang sweetly as the constantly downcast Nicholas Astor. Halley Gilbert stole scenes as Lucy, an enterprising maid. Jack Anderson White and Erik Bagger were consistently amusing in supporting roles.Benjamin Spierman oversaw a smart production, with spare yet appropriately detailed sets by Scott Aronow, thoughtful lighting by G. Benjamin Swope and attractive costumes by Joan Greenhut and Maureen Klein. Eric Kramer, the conductor that night, elicited a solid effort from the orchestra, with only a few split ends.
Richard Sasanow of Broadway World: January 27, 2014
An Unrivaled Performance from the Bronx Opera
Although there is substantial dialogue, a la opéra comique, Mechem has managed to make the melodious score the thing, defining the characters musically even when it doesn’t exactly move the plot along. I particularly liked “Simplicity [will make a millionaire of me],” delightfully performed by the “downstairs” side of Mrs. Malaprop’s household, with soprano Halley Gilbert, as Lucy, the lady’s maid, performing with gusto and charm.
The ensemble worked like clockwork.
This cast was truly an ensemble and they worked like clockwork, under the firm leadership of the company’s Artistic Director/Conductor Michael Spierman and Stage Director Benjamin Spierman. In the Spiermans’ hands, the central singers and chorus moved surely through the shifting setting by Scott Aronow, with handsome costumes by Joan Greenhut and Maureen Klein, and lighting by G. Benjamin Swope.
The key pairing of soprano Julie-Anne Hamula (Lydia Larkspur, Malaprop’s niece) and baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco (Jack Absolute/Waverly) made the fake identity plot work, if not plausible, with strong, musically adept performances. The secondary couple, Nicholas Astor and Julia, were nicely sung by tenor Rogelio Penaverde and soprano Juli Borst, though his role was better defined. The most farcical of the characters, Baron von Hackenbock (“a fortune hunter”) and Jasper Vanderbilt (“of the Kentucky Vanderbilts”) were comic gems in the hands of Jack Anderson White and Erik Bagger, respectively, milked for every laugh–and they got them.
As composer Mechem approaches his 90th birthday, it’s good to see the Bronx Opera giving this youngster a chance. It was a treat.