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In Review > North America

Rosina

NEW YORK CITY
dell’Arte Opera Ensemble
8/17/15

THE MID- TO LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY was an age overflowing with unique and colorful personalities. Among them was Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), a watchmaker and musician who became involved in both the American and French revolutions, and who is best known today as the author of a trilogy of plays centered on Figaro. For its 2015 summer season, dell’Arte Opera Ensemble came up with the clever concept of offering a trilogy of operas based upon Beaumarchais’ trilogy — Giovanni Paisiello’s version of The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s evergreen Le Nozze di Figaro and Rosina, a 1980 opera created by composer Hiram Titus and librettist Barbara Field based upon characters in the Beaumarchais trilogy (seen Aug. 17).

While Rosina draws its most essential characters from Marriage of Figaro (although neither Figaro nor Susanna appear), the opera does not follow Beaumarchais’ own scenario for part three of his trilogy (La Mère coupable, or in English, The Guilty Mother). In Rosina, we find that the Countess (Rosina) has moved to Madrid to take up with Cherubino, who is trying to support them and their newborn child by developing a career as a painter. The intrigue comes when the Count Almaviva, having searched far and wide for his wife and former squire, arrives in disguise as an aristocratic art aficionado. Space limitations do not allow here for a full exposition of the rather complex plot.

Hiram Titus (1947-2013) was a prolific composer who wrote extensively for the theatre, television and cinema. His opera Rosina is written in a tonal idiom, with numerous references made to the music of Mozart, among others. The craftsmanship in the music of Rosina is quite strong. Sadly though, the music lacks the spark of a distinct composerly originality. Everything is tuneful and easy on the ear, but the opera’s overall effect is rather static. The listener waits eagerly for it to take off in a way that speaks to the heart. But this hope is never fulfilled. One leaves feeling that we have been showered with pretty sounds and properly shaped melodies but that the intended drama failed to blossom.

As they have demonstrated in the past, dell’Arte Opera Ensemble employs highly talented performers and directors. Soprano Kathryn Papa gave a sweet and compelling portrayal of Rosina, a woman caught between the true love yet earthly poverty of Cherubino and the financial security yet emotional dishonesty of Count Almaviva. Tenor Christopher Lilley gave an earnest and charismatic depiction of Cherubino, a man balancing his joyful love against the harshness of his worldly conditions. Baritone Stan Lacy was very convincing as the jaded and duplicitous Count Almaviva. And soprano Elizabeth Bouk sang Amparo, the Count’s coquettish paramour and would-be seducer of Cherubino, with an unexpected depth of character. Milica Nikcevic and Marques Hollie were charming in their more comic supporting roles as Pilar (the landlady) and Mendoza (Cherubino’s dealer). The accompaniment by conductor Chris Fecteau and the Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra was sensitive, but never quite overcame the acoustic difficulties of the Baruch Performing Arts Center, the company’s new home. It is hoped that in future seasons dell’Arte Opera Ensemble will figure out a placement of the orchestra such that it is not so close to the performers and audience. At times it was quite hard to discern what words were being sung. Erin Cressy’s stage direction was economical and charming. —Arlo McKinnon 

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