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David and Suzel's recitatives promised better : the 'Bible' scene (in which the Rabbi instructs Suzel and gets her to read a passage from the story of Isaac and Rebecca; interestingly, Erckmann-Chatrian set their story in their native Alsace-Lorraine, which was home to three-quarters of France's Jewish population) was charming; some squealy strings and Fritz's determination not to shed his disfiguring coat detracted from what followed. A good chorus, improved brass and the greys and beiges of an effective final lighting fade, made amends.

Mark Chaundy as David and Catriona Clark as Suzel in Act II of L'Amico Fritz

Clare McCaldin's cheerful gipsy Beppe, a lively baggage of a performer (despite some outrageous overacting -- but had anyone advised her otherwise?) and a slight tendency to sharpen under pressure, contributed one of the best voices, a clear, well-focused mezzo-soprano enhanced by appealing woodwind and bassoon flickers. With Mrs Peachum, Prince Orlovsky, Olga (in Onegin), Hansel and Peep-bo amongst her repertoire, plus appearances with both the English National Opera and Royal Opera House choruses, lead roles ranging from Rameau to John Adams (and a Harry Potter soundtrack), she would be a boon to any opera company, fledgling or established.

The appearance of Beppe (Clare McCaldin) in Opera Omnibus's L'Amico Fritz

 

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Copyright © 8 March 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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