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The great surprise of the evening, however, was the second act -- First the Music, Then the Words. Having been somewhat brainwashed during the last thirty or so years as to the supposed mediocrity of Antonio Salieri, his music is a truly refreshing surprise. The libretto, composed by Gian Battista Casti, is almost a farce, especially under the fast-paced direction of Mr Bamberger. Basically the plot is: a fictional Count commissions an opera to be performed at a banquet. (Sound familiar?) His court composer however, wishes to use music he's found in a stack of old manuscripts. The court poet rebels -- he does not wish to write words for a musty old opera. And of course, each man has his own idea as to who should sing the starring role. One wants a singing actress, the other an acting singer. Finally, a compromise is reached and the ladies agree to share the spotlight.

The composer was sung by Peter Bush and the poet was J Andrew Macbeth. The divas were Katie Oldham as Eleanora and Amy Irvine as Tonina. Vocally, they were well-matched; the two men are both baritones, while Ms Oldham is a mezzo and Ms Irvine a soprano. In addition, the acting here was first rate, with Mr Macbeth taking the honors for his rubbery-limbed hippie characterization. The character of Eleanora is a tragic sort of figure, and it appeared that Ms Oldham might have studied emotion with the great Pavarotti. Her parting 'addio' nearly brought down the house! By contrast, Tonina, was all kookie temperament -- throwing things, gesturing in the grand manner and generally trying to reduce the men -- and the apartment -- to a shambles, all while singing and dancing at the same time! Amazing.

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Copyright © 4 March 2006 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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