Repertory Opera Company’s grab bag of Puccini gems

 by Amber Peters, Lister contributor

On March 21, Repertory Opera Company presented “Puccini Extravaganza,” featuring the opera Il Tabarro, as well as scenes from four other Puccini operas.

Il Tabarro is a one-act opera, originally intended to be performed as part of Puccini’s Il Trittico (“Triptych”, which includes Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi). Il Tabarro is the least frequently performed of the three, but for many it is a favorite, with a descriptive score reminiscent of Debussy. “You can hear the river,” as artistic director LizBeth Lucca put it. Music director Brian Farrell accompanied and conducted from the piano, a one-man orchestra whose musicality and technical mastery made the challenge of playing operatic orchestral reductions seem utterly easy.

Raul Matas and Jennifer Lindsay

The story opens with Giorgetta and Michele aboard their barge, anchored to a pier on the Seine River in Paris, where they make a living transporting goods. Baritone Raul Matas, as the villainous barge-owner, Michele, was wicked and strong while Jennifer Lindsay‘s Giorgetta looked docile and sweet, her voice projecting gorgeous tone quality — smooth, vibrant, easily audible. The male chorus of barge workers showed off energetic, boisterous voices.

Debbie Dey as La Frugola

The Song Seller was sung by Andrew del Castillo with a light sweet tenor. As La Frugola, Debbie Dey‘s deep mezzo-soprano tones were a pleasing contrast to Lindsay’s brighter soprano and they filled the resonant acoustic space in “Se tu sapessi”. James Salazar‘s Luigi showed off his big, flexible tenor voice which seemed designed for larger houses, the audience interrupting to applaud his solo, “Hai ben ragione”.

Jennifer Lindsay and James Salazar

The second half of the show was a  scenes program, consisting mostly of happy Puccini moments: In a scene from La Rondine, Coril Prochnow and Alan August performed “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta”, perfect as the distinguished, sentimental poet and captivating courtesan; Shannon Miller sang “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi with a  sweet, sparkling, fresh voice; and the audience visibly enjoyed the flow and sophistication of the Dressing Scene from Gianni Schicchi with LizBeth Lucca, who was especially comical in her knowing asides. Sean Michael Hughes, as Colline, delivered a booming and powerful Coat Aria from La Bohème.

Lucca and Prochnow were lively and engaging in the Flower Duet from Madame Butterfly, their voices blending harmoniously. The Humming Chorus from Butterfly followed immediately after, seeming to stop time as the acoustics at the church showcased and prolonged its melting tones. Lucca, August and Arthur Freeman all showed a mastery of stagecraft and vocal technique in “Zitto, zitto” from the same opera, filling the space with sound and emotion .

John Hansen, bass-baritone, and Steve Moritsugu, tenor, performed the duet between Marcello and Rodolfo from the final act of La Bohème. It was fun to watch the two men in tragi-comic roles with their lighthearted energy and fine singing.  “Quando m’en vo”, presented as a seven-person scene, was the grand conclusion of the program, led by Amanda Renée Achen, as Musetta, who charmed with a creamy, smooth voice and a megawatt smile, ruling the stage in a brilliant red and gold gown. All the voices raised in harmony brought the program to a close with a crashing crescendo, and a very happy ending (such a rarity in opera) left the audience feeling cheerful and satisfied. It was a delight for any Puccini lover!

ROC_MasterLogo_webROC’s next production is Rossini’s Barber of Seville, with four performances running June 14-27 in Pomona

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