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Theme and Variations

Kulas Hall
04/15/2011 -  & April 17, 18*, 2011
Bedrich Smetana: Excerpts from The Bartered Bride
Ambroise Thomas: Excerpts from Mignon
Franz Lehár: Excerpts from Giuditta
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Excerpts from Così fan tutte
Ludwig van Beethoven: Excerpts from Fidelio
Charles Gounod: Excerpts from Roméo et Juliette
Antonín Dvorák: Excerpts from Rusalka
Gaetano Donizetti: Excerpts from Don Pasquale
Giuseppe Verdi: Excerpts from Il Trovatore & Falstaff
Arthur Sullivan: Trial by Jury

April Martin, Elizabeth Frey, Jilda Farias, Catherine Schuman, Stacey Van Vossen, Alexandra Schiano, Marilyn Reid Smith, Helen Wyatt, Megan Hamm, Kjira Robinson, Laura Ann Cotney, Kelly Rumba, Marisa Buchheit, Sarah Mossman (sopranos), David Fair, Jake Andricks, Kevin Simmons (tenors), Ryan Downey (baritone), Rebecca Skirpan, Alicia Bousner (mezzo-sopranos), Ryan Downey, Andrew Manea, Mark Wanich, Troy Bruchwalski (baritones)
Cleveland Institute of Music Opera Chorus, John Simmons (Music Director & Accompanist)
David Bamberger (Director), Alison Garrigan (Costume, Wig & Makeup Designer)

Trial by Jury (Courtesy of CIM)

The Cleveland Institute of Music presents two fully staged operas each school year, so usually in the spring, the scenes production was supposed to offer the chance to those that did not have full roles earlier in the year to get onstage. When a major conservatory has approximately 60 students in its vocal program, it would be hoped that the opportunities would be spread around, but CIM vocal performances are beginning to feel like observing a repertoire company. With just a few exceptions, we see the same faces at everything, and frankly, it would be nice to see new singers. Additionally, this latest production was not even the usual staged scenes, but rather, a series of no fewer than seven “park-and-bark” arias, one duet, a trio and a quartet in the first part. The opening duet, “Marie Warns Vasek” from The Bartered Bride was charmingly sung by April Martin and her stuttering swain, David Fair, but the set-up for the piece should have better placed it within the context of the opera. Jilda Farias as the night-club singer, Giuditta, sang “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss” in wonderful voice, but drew the short straw this time around, getting a very unsuitably revealing costume and having four young men prance around her in the most distracting and unimaginative choreography ever to grace a stage outside of an elementary school pageant. The trio from Così fan tutte was delightful and all too short, considering that Fiordiligi was radiantly sung by Catheryne Shuman with Ryan Downey as Don Alfonso. Stacy Van Vossen was a sweet voiced Dorabella, but seemed overmatched vocally by the other two, despite the obvious care given to a harmonious presentation. As the confused Marzelline in Fidelio, Alexandra Schiano was charming. Her voice was clear as a bell, her German diction perfect and she makes a very sweet and pretty picture on any stage. Another that was hamstrung by an over-the-top combination of costume and make-up was Helen Wyatt, singing from Rusalka. She has a huge voice, not fully developed, and did an excellent job across the full range of this piece. I’d like to hear her again in a few years when she has had a chance to further explore the depth of her instrument. The best presentation was from Megan Hamm as she sang “Quel guardo, il cavaliere…So anch’io la virtù”, Norina’s telling of her feminine wiles from Don Pasquale. She made the most of her time on stage, sprawling in an armchair with a bouquet of roses and teasing the accompanist with her charm. Ms. Hamm is an accomplished performer and always enjoyable to see and hear. Rebecca Skirpan showed a lot of potential in her massive mezzo voice, singing “Stride la vampa”, the Gypsy’s canzone from Verdi’s Il trovatore. This is not a piece one usually expects to hear sung by a student, but Ms. Skirpan’s voice is up to the task and the role of Azucena could well become a calling card for her in years to come. She will have to work on presentation, though, as her acting skills were weak. In truth, she was not given a lot to work with, as she was plopped down on stage, draped over a rock, which would have been difficult for a much more seasoned performer.

The second half of the program was given over to Gilbert and Sullivan’s early collaboration, the one act Trial by Jury. Unlike their later works, this is totally sung-through and in the hands of director David Bamberger, CIM’s presentation relied more on schtick than on great voices. The men were the strong point in this show: Andrew Manea was nicely authoritative as The Usher, trying his hardest to keep order among the loony occupants of the jury box and the outspoken female observers of the courtroom proceedings. Edwin, the Defendant, was portrayed by Jake Andicks, who stole the show with his combination of great acting and voice. The pompous and licentious Learned Judge was well sung by Mark Wanich, his big baritone easy and clear as he sang of his rise to power by courting a “rich attorney’s elderly, ugly daughter” and then suggesting a twist to solve the defendant’s problem. Marissa Buchheit sang the Counsel for the Plaintiff - a switch of genders sometimes seen in this role -very nicely, if not quite as loudly as might have been desired. The jilted bride, in full regalia, was Sarah Mossman, whose voice was not up to the part. She could barely be heard in the small house and her acting was too one-dimensional to flesh out the role. Holding the thirty minute operetta together were the male jury members and the female Ladies of London. Their collective voices were strong and each portrayed a different character within the time; often the interplay in the jury box or viewing area became the focal point of the stage action. They were ably supported by the chorus of six bridesmaids, also in full rig-out, who trouped into the courtroom and took up the position directly in front of the Judge’s box. It was in this 30 minute piece that one could really appreciate the talents of costume and wig designer Alison Garrigan. In her 5th year of working with CIM, she always manages to do something wonderful, but she really pulled out the stops this time around! The outfits were splendid, each telling a tale of unique character, and the bridesmaids were truly a vision in matching filmy, peach dresses.

Accompanying everything was Music Director John Simmons, and he did a splendid job, conducting ensembles from the piano and never missing a beat. His time and effort was greatly appreciated by students and audience members alike and everyone onstage and off spent an enjoyable afternoon.

Suzanne Torrey



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