NEW YORK CITY: Albert Herring
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Albert Herring

Bronx Opera

Bronx Opera’s Albert Herring made a modest but pleasing late entry in the celebration of 2013’s Britten bicentennial. Launched at Glyndebourne in 1947, the quirky comedy of manners had its American premiere two summers later at Tanglewood. In this country it has remained largely the province of festival companies, though NYCO mounted a production in 1971 and Gotham Opera staged a fine version in 2006. For the Bronx-based troupe, Rod Gomez directed a straightforward, fond but never too arch account of the piece, in simple but eye- pleasing sets that marked a successful collaboration between Meganne George and the lighting designer Joshua Rose. Peter Fogel’s costumes proved apt and flattering.

Heard January 17 at the Kaye Playhouse at Manhattan’s Hunter College, the musical performance under Michael Spierman managed to convey the structure and rhythm of the complex, sometimes allusive score despite some uneven and sometimes untidy instrumental sound. In the reduced band, piano — for the recitative portions — harp, flute, cello and bass proved consistent assets. Words sometimes vanished in ensembles, but Act III’s great lamenting nonet marked a high point in the evening’s singing. Bronx Opera regularly double casts its shows. No one in this group was a liability, though levels of experience, vocal freshness and musical polish varied perceptibly.

Chad Kranak made a winning Albert, with attractive lyric sound and very clear words wedded to a clever, likably unflappable performance. The cover Albert, Joseph Michael Brent, sang Mayor Upfold with a penetrating sound and remarkably projected diction (the best of the entire cast). Julie De Vaere’s Florence Pike — confusingly kited out as an Adèle-like maid for the first scene — came next in the verbal clarity sweepstakes, and sang well too. Amy Maude Helfer’s deft Nancy registered more strongly than the pleasant enough Stan Lacy as Sid: a slightly darker tone helps in this part, and his words rarely came across. Dignified as Mrs. Herring, Helena Brown showed a hefty quality alto. Hannah Fuerst (Emmie) and Kristina Gaschel (Cis) were sonorous and amusing. As Lady Billows, Leslie Swanson’s entrance was unfortunately too camped up; but she, Danielle Buonaiuto (Miss Wordsworth), Andrew Oakden (Dean), C. David Morrow (Superintendent Budd) and Eric Ackerman (Harry) all had good moments in completing a droll picture. spacer 


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