OPERA NEWS - I Due Timidi & Suor Angelica
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In Review > North America

I Due Timidi & Suor Angelica 

Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater

In Review MSM Timidi hdl 419
Joseph Tancredi as Raimondo and Carolina López Moreno's Mariuccia in I Due Timidi at Manhattan School of Music

ON DECEMBER 6, Manhattan School of Music celebrated its inaugural mainstage production in the school’s newly refurbished Neidorff-Karpati Hall with a double bill of Nino Rota’s radio opera I Due Timidi and Puccini’s Suor Angelica.

I Due Timidi, a delightful one-act, had is premiere in November 1950, roughly one year after the Italian national radio paired Rota with screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico to create a new opera for broadcast. The resulting opera, as told by a narrator, is the amusing story of the Guidotti boarding house and its inhabitants. Central to the story are two young people, Mariuccia and Raimondo, who love one another but are too shy to profess their feelings. Shortly after Raimondo moves into the boarding house to be close to Mariuccia, the fan in his room falls onto his head, and he collapses; as the doctor is called, Raimondo mistakes Signora Guidotti for Mariuccia and professes his affections. Meanwhile, as the doctor is tending to Mariuccia, who has fainted for her love of Raimondo (really, this should be called The Fainting Opera), she confesses her feelings, and the doctor assumes he himself is the object of her affection. In the end, Mariuccia and Raimondo are too timid to act; the final scene jumps forward two years, when Mariuccia and Raimondo are grumpily married to the doctor and Signora, respectively. 

Carolina López Moren, a beautiful stage presence with an equally beautiful timbre, scored a success as Mariuccia. Her sound has an expressive top voice and a velvety middle; her forte singing, especially in the duets, was breathtaking. Joseph Tancredi, as Raimondo, has a handsome tenor: his sound focused without being heavy, although his performance would have benefited from some more dynamic variation. Polixeni Tziouvaras, as Signora Guidotti, was an energetic comedienne with a colorful mezzo, but she swallowed some of her words. The doctor, Zhiyu Shi, needed a bit more focus in his Italian diction.The evening’s Narratore, Yi Yang, had a luscious bass, especially in his middle register. As Mariuccia’s mother, Erin Reppenhagen—who doubled as the Monitor in Suor Angelica—made the best of her small role, flaunting a deep, dark mezzo. And as the three women who worked at the boarding house, Heather O’Donovan, Kaitlin Turner and Bridget Casey were simply splendid, singing with conviction and grace.

Rota’s lush score paired well musically with Suor Angelica; both operas even utilize a single instrument (Mariuccia’s piano in the Rota, and church bells in the Puccini) to begin a melody that is subsequently picked up, in variation, by the orchestra—here, a group of talented MSM students conducted by Florentine Giovanni Reggioli. As Angelica, Xiaotong Cao was very impressive. Hers weighty soprano grew in color as the opera progressed. “Senza Mamma” was a bit louder than is customary—the final high A is marked a pianissimo in the score, and Cao’s rendition lived at a steady mezzo forte—but the slice of her voice through the orchestra more than made up for any quibbles. The death scene was a true beauty, the point for which Cao evidently saved all her vocal fireworks—including piano high notes. 

Cast as Angelica’s aunt, the princess, Michelle Blauman offered a sultry mezzo, although some of her low notes in “Nel silenzio” were a bit murky and a few of her phrases were clipped. Hannah Friesen shone brightly as Genovieffa, employing a light, sweet soprano with a quick vibrato. Two other standouts were the Lay Sisters of Michelle Capano and Cambrey Willhelm. 

Visually, the production was stunning. Director Dona D. Vaughn crafted a colorful, picturesque boarding house in I Due Timidi, and, although the Suor Angelica production was much sparser, the two stagings were subtly united by similar texture, height and color scheme. Equally colorful were the post-war style costumes in I Due Timidi, well done by Tracy Dorman. It was a fitting way for MSM to begin its centennial year in its newly renovated home. —Maria Mazzaro 

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