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OPERA REVIEW

Rossini Opera Cast Curtain Call July 19 at Festival

ROSSINI'S FROTHY FARCE AN AUDIENCE HIT AT MENDO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 22, 2013

Mendocino Music Festivalís Alan Pollack usually has some musical surprises up his conductorís sleeve, and at the July 19 Festival opera production he produced a unique coupling of lecture and music, set against the framework of a rarely-mounted 1813 opera.

As a way of extending Rossiniís frothy farce ďIl Signor BruschinoĒ (the accidental son) Mr. Pollack preceded the one-act opera by speaking about enjoying opera to the audience from the stage, spotlighting Rossini and the composerís famous quips and gourmet triumphs, and finally speculating why the Rossini didnít compose much in his final 30 years. It was an enlightening speech but almost totally unrelated to the opera, which came after a short intermission.

Well, this opera and its inane plot really didnít need much description. The common operatic switching of personages and people hiding behind the sofa prevailed, though unique moments were enjoyed when a motorized golf cart made several appearances on stage, driving in and out of a black curtain separating the singers and minimal sets from the small orchestra at the rear of the tent. I heard Erin Neffís voice amplified at times, but the rest of eight-person cast was ďau naturalĒ and the orchestraís volume and balances were excellent in the tent. Singing was in Italian and supertitles were projected on a drape above the stage. Recitatives (in English) were stylishly accompanied by an electric harpsichord

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu and bass baritone Paul Thompson both sang convoluted parts with conviction, as did tenor Sergio R. Gonzalez and soprano Kelly Britt in the roles of young lovers Florville and Sofia. Michael Jankosky sang briefly as the long incarcerated Bruschino Jr., and doubled as a comic gendarme in short pants who tries to unravel the several impersonations. There was local interest as the setting was announced as the nearby Little River Inn. Locals were pleased.

Most of the Festivalís 27 seasons have featured an opera, though last year was dark, and the bantamweight Bruschinoís warm reception from the audience of 500 invites a stage work of more dramatic heft and musical interest in 2014.