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Reviews,
October 2004

fall and winter
THE CHIEFTAIN
ENGAGED in NY
PATIENCE at Glimmerglass Opera
Did anyone catch...?

THE CHIEFTAIN at Sam Silvers' sing-in, NYCThe Chieftain

About the time Sam Silvers announced his April sing-in, several Savoynetters realized that this would be a good time to try out Paul Howarth's new typesetting of the score to THE CHIEFTAIN, by FC Burnand and Arthur Sullivan. Central among these were Andi Stryker-Rodda, Phil Sternenberg and Larry Byler who put in many hours going over the score carefully for typos. [Andi wrote: The complete editorial team consisted of: Sternenberg (emphasis on vocal parts, whole VS); Byler, Marc Lewis, Marc Shepherd, Steve Lichtenstein, David Jedlinsky, myself, and notes from various individual performers.]

The appeal for a producer or organizer was graciously answered by Marc Lewis, who cast the show, organized rehearsals the week of the sing-in, and wrote a brief narration interspersed with a few lines from the libretto to explain the action.

The enthusiastic cast consisted of

Vasquez: Phillip Sternenberg
Grigg: Doug Whaley
Pedro Gomez: Jim Cooper
Ferdinand: Marc Lewis (replacing Richard Holmes,
who sang in Götterdammerung at the Met that afternoon!
)
Sancho: Dan Kravetz
Jose: Barry Hilton
Blazzo Marc Lewis
Rita: Elise Curran
Inez: Carole Round
Dolly: Frances Yasprica
Juanita: Emily Gouillart
Accompanist: Andrea Stryker-Rodda

The story describes a tribe of bandits who live in a mountain pass in Spain, (not far from another pass where Carmen and her bandits live, as Marc Lewis pointed out in a faux introduction containing a few bars of Bizet.)dancing girl

In this story, the chieftain of these bandits has been missing for a year, and the remaining bandits (the Ladrones) have decided that their laws require them to forcibly anoint the first stranger to come through the pass as their new chieftain and marry him off to the fearsome Inez, wife of the missing chieftain, who actually has absconded with their gold. That person is the British tourist Peter Grigg, played here comically by Doug Whaley, who even managed to work sheep and pig puppets into his song about how he missed his farm back home. The story gets sillier than this, but most of the singers and audience found that the show contained a number of really charming small ensemble numbers and a few moments of real beauty in the solos.

Particularly noted was Inez's song "My parents were of great gentility," which quoted liberally from something that sounded much like "Carmen," and Rita's song "Only the night wind sighs." Also great fun was the drinking song "Let us live a life of pleasure," in the Act I finale, pre-reminiscent of "The Student Prince," and the second act Sestet "be mum, be mum to every chum."

The story ends when Grigg decides to keep his second forced marriage secret from his real wife by buying the photograph that was taken at the wedding, just as the missing chieftain returns and is forced back into office with his stolen gold by the annoyed Ladrones. The music ends with some really delightfully tricky dance rhythms somewhat reminiscent of the hemiola at the end of THE GONDOLIERS.

As an encore, Richard Holmes arrived and sang the big solo number "La Criada" that the sing-in skipped over. It is quite spectacular as a solo performing number, but really seems out of place in the actual flow of the show.

We should do one of these ephemera more often!

     - JIM COOPER
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PATIENCE at Glimmerglass Opera

I had the very great pleasure of attending the Saturday August 14th matinee performance of the Glimmerglass Opera production of PATIENCE. This is hands down the best overall performance of a G&S opera I have ever attended. The performance was outstanding in all respects. What a joy to hear the music performed by top notch professionals in a first class production in a jewel-box opera house in a superb setting. After an inexplicable nine-year hiatus, it was great to see G&S return so triumphantly to the Glimmerglass stage.

Where to start with the accolades? The production was simple, with Bunthorne's Castle a mansion that turned at various angles to allow a changing backdrop for the soloists and chorus to work with. The simple set really showed up the stunning (and I do mean stunning) costumes. While the dragoons were in the red and yellow ('Primary colours!”) attire of the dragoon guards, the women were in very becoming 1920-style gowns. While some reviewers though the staging wild, I thought it was quite traditional and well planned and executed.milkmaid and Amor

Most of the cast were rising young performers, some with few professional credits. Sarah Coburn was a winning Patience. While she smudged some of the coloratura in her first act entrance, this was only a small quibble in a beautifully sung performance. Her rendition of the second act aria was all that could be asked for. Veteran NYC opera performer Joyce Castle was a standout Jane. She even played her own cello in her Act II number. Her 'bits” with the real orchestra during that number were very funny. The rest of the ladies were all very good, with Stephanie Chigas a strong-voiced Angela.

Jeffrey Lentz was a stellar Bunthorne. His costume made him look like Swinburne on acid--very 1960s. His rival poet was played by Kevin Burdette, who showed a large bass-baritone with a good upper extension. The highlight of the show for me was the duet 'When I go out of door.” The staging required Bunthorne and Grosvenor to do more intricate dancing before pulling out the stops in the obligatory encore. (This production had the luxury of casting two poets who are very similar physically). The three regimental officers were led by a strong-voiced Colonel in Jake Gardner. Perhaps the best- known singer in the cast, Gardner was having the time of his life in his two patter numbers in Act I. The Duke was performed by Darren Anderson, who was very funny. The major was handled by Christopher Burchett, who displayed a good voice and some mean dancing skills in the Act II quintet. He would have made a very good Grosvenor.

I was very sorry to see it end. For a Savoyard, it doesn't get much better than this. Even my nine-year old daughter, who cares little for G&S, liked it, although she concluded that it was 'not as good as the Mikado.” I agree. But it is my own (and my wife's) personal favorite of all the G&S canon. For those who missed it this summer, the production will be traveling to the New York City Opera in either 2005 or 2006. While it will lose a lot of the intimacy of the Glimmerglass setting, the performance is definitely worth a trip, since it will probably include most of the Glimmerglass leads.

Finally, the director, Tazewell Thompson, wrote a charming introduction to the show in the program. While a well-known opera director, he is new to G&S. He wrote about his affection and respect for the G&S devotees whom he admitted know much more about the Savoy opera than he ever will. That affection showed in his work. I can't wait for Glimmerglass to do another G&S show. I will be the first in line to buy tickets.

--MILES CARY LEAHEY    

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ENGAGED in New York Carole and I saw a performance of Gilbert's play Engaged at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village Sunday afternoon, 2 May 2004. It was produced by the Theatre for a New Audience and directed by Doug Hughes.I will not curse him!

The cast was well chosen and thoroughly professional. Jeremy Shamos gave a bravura performance as Cheviot, and was the engine of the play (as was Bill Kuhlman in our [Sudbury Savoyards] version). David Don Miller was an interesting choice as Angus; he was a big strapping fellow who looked a lot like Peter Stormare, the murderous thug in Fargo. That gave an extra spin to Cheviot's line "I will not curse him." The Scots dialect was well handled, although the director chose to change ‘twa pund' to ‘two pounds,' presumably in the interest of intelligibility (my position is that since Cheviot has already established the sum as ‘two pounds,' Maggie and Angus are free to indulge in ‘twa pund'). I missed the hug after the transaction was concluded.

The performance was well attended and the audience appreciative. I noticed a phenomenon I've seen in other Gilbert shows--a subset of the audience will find one line funny, and a different group will find the next line funny, so there's almost continuous chuckling throughout the scene. I found almost every line funny, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

-- CHUCK BERNEY

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DID ANYONE CATCH…

- The Andover Phillips Academy's PIRATES in May?

- The Savoyard Light Opera Company's Aug 1 concert, "5/29/1911 - A Gilbert & Sullivan Fantasy"?

New England Light Opera's 2nd Annual Summer Concert Series: July 21st: Gilbert and Sullivan Night?

Tell Us, tell us all about it! - tsw

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