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Performances

10 Dec 2004

A Month in the Country

We previously reported on the Manhattan School of Music production of Lee Hoiby's A Month in the Country. Here is Anne Midgette's review. A Russian Play, Reimagined by an American Composer By ANNE MIDGETTE "We've lost a few people," said...

We previously reported on the Manhattan School of Music production of Lee Hoiby's A Month in the Country. Here is Anne Midgette's review.

A Russian Play, Reimagined by an American Composer

By ANNE MIDGETTE

"We've lost a few people," said a woman in the audience, surveying a few empty seats after the intermission of Lee Hoiby's opera "A Month in the Country," which opened at the Manhattan School of Music on Wednesday night. "And I don't know why. It's so beautiful."

We have lost a few people. Or rather, we've lost a few operas. Mr. Hoiby was once a rising star over the American opera landscape. But you don't see his work anymore at, say, the New York City Opera, where "A Month in the Country" (originally titled "Natalia Petrovna," and based on the play by Turgenev) had its premiere in 1964. And that's a shame, because "A Month in the Country" is a wonderful opera.

You could perhaps carp that Mr. Hoiby's music is conservative, tonal and breaks little new ground, but I was too busy being engrossed by it, and by the opera's psychological insight and grateful vocal writing, both equally rare. It didn't hurt that the Manhattan School of Music cast it strikingly well and gave it a fine production by Ned Canty (down to Elizabeth Hope Clancy's period costumes).

Every part here had something to offer. The lead role of Natalia, a beautiful, bored aristocrat who falls in love with her niece's tutor, is huge and demanding; JennyRebecca Winans showed a lovely, smooth voice that matched her poise, and if she lost some steam in places, it's hard to think of a singer who wouldn't. As the tutor, Liam Bonner had a big, impressive baritone that was slightly raw and unpolished (perfectly fitting the character); as the niece, Vera, Yoosun Park was a bit challenged by the upper register.

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