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Performances

Scene from Amazons in the Fortunate Isles [Photo by Emily  Anderson]
30 May 2016

Amazons Enchant San Francisco

On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.

Amazons Enchant San Francisco

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Scene from Amazons in the Fortunate Isles [Photo by Emily Anderson]

 

In 1679, the opera was staged at the Teatro delle Vergini outside of Venice and has not been given professionally since.

Amazon women were popular in seventeenth century Venetian opera and more than one hundred librettos of the time included them. According to some ancient writers, Amazon warriors originated in Turkey. Others preferred to cite different mythological backgrounds. The women were said to mate only once a year. After they gave birth, male children were discarded and only the females were raised to adulthood.

The plot of Pallavicino’s opera involves Numidio, a captain in the Sultan’s army sung by the tall, blonde, muscular tenor, Ryan Matos. The captain has been shipwrecked on the Amazon’s island, where Princess Pulcheria, sung with exquisite Baroque style by French soprano Aurélie Veruni, falls in love with him. He seems to prefer Florinda, portrayed by creamy-voiced mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, who proved to be both a lyrical lover and a dramatic powerhouse. Unfortunately, Numidio cannot make up his mind. Florinda has to deal with reconciling her vow of chastity with love. The only other male singer in this opera, bronze-voiced baritone Spencer Dodd, was the fearsome sultan who eventually invades the Amazon’s island.

Soprano Tonia D’Amelio as Auralba, who is also in love with Florinda and jealous of Numidio shows her strong dramatic ability when she appears to have more leadership qualities than the indecisive male. Soprano Cara Gabrielson sang Jocasta with notable vocal skills and mezzo Molly Mahoney was a fiery Cillene. Dancers Coral Martin and Casey Lee Thorne added to the graceful lines of choreographer Muriel Maffre’s stage pictures with their smooth, undulating gestures.

Stage director Céline Ricci made sure that the universal tales and of love, both straight and gay, were brought from seventeenth century directly to the twenty-first. Behind the action Patricia Nardi's thoughtful projections combined well with simple modern costuming topped by opulent colorful hairpieces and wigs that provided eye candy for the audience.

Conductor Derek Tam led Ars Minerva’s eight-piece orchestra, which consisted of theorbo, two violins, cello, two trumpets, harpsichord and percussion. The string players, especially the theorbist and harpsichordist, showed fabulous musical skills. Only the trumpets were a bit edgy at times. The problems brought about by humans falling in love with each other are not only of interest to those immediately concerned, some of its vagaries and situations are hysterically funny. The Amazons is a most amusing opera and I hope that Ars Minerva will soon make it available to a larger audience.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production details:

Il Genio, Tonia d'Amelio; La Difficoltà, Molly Mahoney; Il Timore, Spencer Dodd; Pulcheria, Principessa delle Amazzoni, Aurélie Veruni; Florinda sua Favorita, Kindra Scharich; Numidio, suo capitano, Ryan Matos; Auralba, amica di Florinda, Tonia d'Amelio; Jocasta, figlia adottiva di Pulcheria, Cara Gabrielson; Cillene, delirante per Amore, Molly Mahoney; Sultan Rè degli Egizzi, Spencer Dodd; Dancers: Casey Lee Thorne and Coral Martin; Stage Direction, Céline Ricci; Choreography, Muriel Maffre; Projection Design, Patricia Nardi; Lighting Design, Brian Poedy; Hair & Make-up, Metamorphosis Salon; English Translation, Joe McClinton; Conductor, Derek Tam; Harpsichord, Derek Tam; Theorbo, Adam Cockerham; Cello, Gretchen Claassen, Violin, Addi Liu and Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo; Timpani, Henry Reed; Trumpets, Amanda Cienfuegos and Jose Sanchez.

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