Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

Dulwich Opera’s Carmen

Dulwich Opera Company’s Carmen was a convincingly successful show.  This was mainly due to succinct musical direction and rigorous dramatic direction.  It also meant that the proximity of the action was a fascinating treat, and by the artists being young, and easy on the eye.

Franz Schreker: Die Gezeichneten

There is a host of fine operas out there languishing more or less unperformed (in some cases, quite unperformed). A few of them might even qualify as ‘great’. (Feel free to remove inverted commas, should that be your thing.) Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, whatever its proponents might claim, is certainly not one of those: not even close.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Frank Loesser
21 Mar 2006

City Opera’s Production of The Most Happy Fella

The New York City Opera opened its spring 2006 season with a new production of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, which premiered on Broadway fifty years ago in 1956.

The question of whether Fella is a musical or an opera has long been discussed: while it was premiered as a Broadway production (and revived there in 1979), in many ways the score is more complex than your average musical, indeed, more complex than even Loesser’s other hit musicals, including his beloved Guys and Dolls. Fella director Philip McKinley chose to reinstate two of Marie’s arias that had been cut from the 1956 production, a decision lauded by Loesser’s widow and advocate Jo Sullivan Loesser. The added character development and emotional content that was the result of this decision—not to mention the greater length of the production—certainly supports the arguments on the “opera” side of the debate.

In the end, though Fella offers all the best of Braodway musicals: rousing ensembles, sentimental love songs, and big, exciting dance pieces. Especially appealing about Fella is the way that Loesser, who wrote both the music and the book, interweaves dialogue and singing without any awkwardness; the words do not take a backseat to the music at any point during Fella, which keeps the drama moving.

At its heart, Fella—like most musicals—is a love story: it is a tale of how an older Italian immigrant living in the Napa Valley (Tony) falls in love with and seduces a young waitress from San Francisco (Rosabella—her real name is Amy, but no one calls her that). Tony and his Rosabella fall in love twice—once through a pen pal correspondence and once after they had been married already. Like all love stories, the lovers have to work through a number of obstacles, and this pair has more than their fair share. As the show unfolds they conquer the wide gap in their ages, a case of mistaken identity, a near fatal car accident, the machinations of Tony’s spinster sister, and the fallout from a one-night affair, which includes an unplanned-for pregnancy as well as hurt feelings.

The media leading up to the production focused on the highly anticipated performance of Paul Sorvino as Tony. Sorvino is a well-known actor with extensive film and television credits, and a Tony nominee for his performance in That Championship Season. Much the media buzz focused on whether Sorvino really can sing, and he shows in Fella that he certainly can. Additionally, Sorvino seduced his audience with his sweet portrayal of a sometimes bumbling bachelor, and he elicited much laughter from the audience with his impeccable timing in delivering lines. It is a role that could easily be cloying—Tony is just such a nice, lovable guy—but Sorvino creates the character so adeptly that one can understand why he is so adored by all the other characters. Any nervousness that Tommasini may have noticed in his review of the premier had vanished by the middle of the run.
The entire cast was energetic and appealing, but none more so in my opinion than Leah Hocking who played a relatively minor role as Rosabella’s co-worker and friend Cleo. Hocking was a delight to watch every time she came on stage, and her confidence and charisma started the production off on the right foot in the comical solo “Ooh! My Feet!” She also lit up the large ensemble and dance number “Big D,” and provided much needed comic relief throughout the second act with her beau Herman, played by John Scherer.

The sets, designed by Michael Anania for a 1991 production, were delightful with their rich colors and a homey feel in all the Napa Valley scenes. The stage was further brightened by the fun and costumes by Ann Hould Ward, which looked especially charming in the big dances scenes. Peggy Hickey was responsible for choreography that worked particularly well in the faster, more exuberant pieces; she also includes a more balletic number in the second act, which is beautiful, but slows down the story without providing much drama or interest—a rare moment in this delightful recreation of a classic.

New York City Opera’s Most Happy Fella continues through this weekend, the final show is March 25.

Megan Jenkins
The Graduate Center – CUNY

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):