NEW YORK CITY: Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi
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In Review > North America

Suor Angelica & Gianni Schicchi 

NEW YORK CITY
Mannes Opera
12/18/14

On December 18, Mannes Opera showcased its talented student singers in a double bill of Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi at the Kaye Playhouse. As the doomed Angelica, soprano Courtney Johnson offered sensitively arced phrases and an appealing spinto steeliness, but her performance was just as notable for her true and nuanced acting. Rather than indicating her feelings, she allowed the audience to see her inner turmoil, and her genuine emotion opened up her voice for a moving “Senza mamma.” If her high notes lack sweetness, Johnson is capable of raising the right kind of chills in the climactic moments. As the implacable Princess, mezzo-soprano Kelly Clarke proved a worthy antagonist, maintaining an unbreachable hauteur as she unleashed round tones that were both voluminous and ominous. Caitlin Cassidy balanced warmth and sternness as the Monitor, while Rebecca Hargrove contributed a fresh-voiced, innocent Sister Genevieve. As the mischievous Sister Dolcina, Lynnesha Crump seemed like the nun you’d want to share your cell with. Tatiana Ogan as the Mistress of the Novices and Sarah Anderson as the Abbess offered fine support, while the chorus of nuns sang with focus and good balance, even from offstage.

While Suor Angelica was very good, Gianni Schicchi was pretty close to perfect. Director Laura Alley clearly impressed upon her cast that comedy is funniest when it’s played completely seriously, and the result was genuinely hilarious. The singers playing Buoso Donati’s grasping relatives crafted uniquely quirky characters within a vividly drawn family dynamic, and they also played off one another like a well-oiled ensemble (they even ad-libbed in Italian). Sarah Guilmartin’s red-lipsticked, fur-collared Ciesca stepped right out of a Fellini film, while her Marco, Anthony Caputo, seemed desperate to keep her happy. Felicia Moore was an amusingly single-minded Nella, and her gleaming soprano stood out in the women’s trio. Richard Symons made an exasperated Gherardo, while Brittany Catalano was convincing as their obnoxious but useful son, Gherardino. Melanie Ashkar exhibited an authoritative mezzo as Zita and was well-matched by Ignacio Gama’s pompous Simone. Pnini Grubner’s resonant bass projected effortlessly as ne’er-do-well cousin Betto, but the vocal standout was César Delgado as Rinuccio. His generous, lustrous tenor lost no breadth or warmth on top, and his committed, energetic acting made him the unlikely engine of the action. Next to this neurotically motley crew, the Schicchis came across as refreshingly normal and intelligent, rather than scheming. Boya Wei played Lauretta with girlish sweetness, delivering “O mio babbino caro” with delicate phrasing and pearly tone. As Gianni, Seung-hyeon Baek was suave, wry, and amusingly mocking in his impersonation of Buoso. José Cuartas made a meal of the nerdy, nasal Doctor Spinelloccio, and Edward Cleary wisely underplayed the Notary’s exasperation. Credit must be given to Aaron Casey, who spent half the opera in a sarcophagus as the dead Buoso. Conductor Joseph Colaneri elicited lush sounds from the orchestra, although they did occasionally overpower the young voices. spacer 

JOANNE SYDNEY LESSNER

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