by Richard Houdeck
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
GREAT BARRINGTON – A singular joy for opera lovers involves those special occasions in which the great artists perform the roles that they have claimed as their own. Still, considerable delight also lies in the discovery of new, young singers as they ascend the ladder of opportunity, hopeful of great lyric-theater careers.
Nine of these hopefuls are displaying their singing and acting talents this weekend at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center as current members of Berkshire Opera’s Resident Artists Program. They are appearing in a double bill of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s “The Old Maid and the Thief” and Maurice Ravel’s “L’Heure Espagnole,” two one-act comedies that fit snugly into the opera company’s theme for summer, “Amorous Escapades.”
Both operas are inherently funny, and Gregory Keller, in his staging, has taken advantage, in each case, of that built-in merriment, while Dipu Gupta has provided stylish settings, especially for “L’Heure.”
...Gupta’s set offers a series of fascinating moderne monoliths, two of them representing large opened-back grandfather clocks into which the two lovers are able to disappear from view at opportune moments, but portable enough for Ramiro to carry on his back to Concepción’s presumed second-floor bedroom.
Ravel’s score, like much of the composer’s music, is especially congenial to keyboard interpretation, and Kathleen Kelly, the conductor, adapted that score deftly for an ensemble in which she was joined by two versatile instrumentalists returning this year – her fellow pianist Ho-jeong Jeong, a resident artist, and percussionist Paul Chuey. The singing in ‘L’Heure” also was some of the best the evening had to offer.
...Described by Menotti as “a grotesque opera for radio in 14 scenes, “The Old Maid and the Thief” was commissioned by NBC radio and made its debut on that network in 1939. Gupta invested his set for the opera with a radio ambience, including the front door, which could have come out of the sound-effects department of any studio in the golden days of the medium.
...In one of the best scenes devised by Keller with Gupta’s lighting design, Miss Todd, a local temperance leader, after learning that Bob wants something to drink, decides that it is better to steal from the local liquor store than to be seen buying it. Sato and Stuart make their way, with flashlights, from the stage through the pit up to the stage left box, where the liquor is displayed. It is a delightful scene, well timed, and in the best tradition of opera buffa.