By Lawrence A. Johnson
For opera lovers, the live-music shutdown resulting from Covid-19 has been the toughest musical absence to bear. One can unearth a number of scattered chamber occasions to attend in particular person, and recordings must take the place of symphonic live performance performances quickly. However with a near-complete shutdown of opera firms throughout the nation the lack to listen to prime voices singing nice music within the flesh has the best arts loss for vocal aficionados.
Fortunately, smaller firms will be extra nimble than bigger homes and lots of are discovering other ways to current opera in these fraught occasions for classical music.
Kudos to Haymarket Opera founder Craig Trompeter and basic director Chase Hopkins for preserving the 10th anniversary season of Chicago’s hardy Baroque opera firm. Haymarket’s all-Handel season opened Friday evening with Acis and Galatea within the firm’s filmed model, streamed on-line. The on-demand stream might be out there by way of November 8.
As acclaimed as George Frideric Handel’s operas are within the 21st century, lots of his best stage works obtained detached success in his lifetime.
Not so Acis and Galatea, which introduced the composer probably the most boffo operatic field workplace of his lengthy profession. Over 70 performances happened after the premiere (c.1718) and Acis is among the uncommon Handel works to be revealed in his lifetime (together with a best hits version of not solely “Favourite Songs” however the overture, choruses and even recitatives).
The “Masque in Two Acts” is Handel’s second work on the identical Greek fable, following his Italian cantata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo of a decade earlier. The mortal Acis falls in love with the sea-nymph Galatea who can be lusted after by the jealous cyclops Polyphemus. Hilarity doesn’t ensue as Polyphemus kills Acis; the devastated Galatea transforms her deceased lover right into a river spring, “Murm’ring nonetheless his mild love.”
Quaint because the situation could also be, Acis presents a outstanding wealth of musical riches in its 95-minute span even by Handel’s customary. There’s a ceaseless circulation of indelible melodies for the 4 principals and refrain, which rise over the drearier patches of the libretto.
Regardless of a lot hype about Haymarket’s “revolutionary” method to filming a Handel opera, this streaming model of Acis and Galatea stays, basically, a filmed live performance efficiency—albeit with extra trendy lighting and path than most.
The corporate jettisoned its standard scrupulous consideration to interval units and Baroque efficiency kinds in favor of a extra modern look, embracing the artifice of the studio setting. Singers wore fashionable live performance apparel and saved socially distanced as a lot as attainable. There was zero try at stage drama or blocking, 18th century or in any other case. (Granted, having Polyphemus kill Acis with a hurled boulder would have been a problem.)
Nonetheless whereas the video appeared crisp and hanging and voices projected clearly, this stylistic hybrid didn’t appear a completely snug transition from the corporate’s standard traditionally knowledgeable bailiwick. The efficiency proceeded easily however with no interplay between the singers, there was usually—maybe inevitably—a scarcity of theatrical spark and spontaneity.
Much less clean was the technical aspect, with transmission dropouts beginning on the midway mark. These hiccups had been transient however intermittent sufficient to be irritating and sometimes interrupt the circulation of the efficiency.
Fortuitously, on the musical entrance, the singing was constantly stellar and served Handel’s pleasant rating fantastically.
As Acis, Michael St. Peter continues to construct on the sturdy impression the singer made final yr along with his firm debut in The Dragon of Wantley. The younger tenor possesses an simply produced mild tenor, which alongside along with his sunny persona, wholly conveyed the youthful sincerity and guileless innocence of Acis. St. Peter’s ardent “Love in her eyes sits taking part in” was ideally realized although it’s unlucky that his “Love sounds th’alarm” was bedeviled by dropouts.
Kimberly Jones proved a vocally worthy Galatea, dealing with the roulades of “As when the dove” and her different arias with technical aplomb. What was missing was a depth of expression that mirrored her character’s feelings and dire predicament. Galatea’s remaining arias failed to the touch the center, anodyne vocally and let down by the soprano’s unsubtle appearing.
Haymarket’s ever-reliable David Govertsen introduced his imposing instrument and customary vocal excellence to the villainous function of Polyphemus. The singer appeared inhibited by the quasi-concert format and at occasions one wished a bit extra Owen Brannigan-like theatrical relish for the fantastical character. Nonetheless Govertsen sang marvelously, his darkish saturnine bass-baritone deliciously nimble and exacting within the lilting “Oh, ruddier than the cherry.”
Because the shepherd Damon, Kaitlin Foley supplied the highlights of the efficiency. The soprano’s poised delicacy proved properly suited to the shepherd—a sort of pastoral intervention counselor. Foley’s “Would you acquire the tender creature?” was beautiful as was “Contemplate, fond shepherd” (taken from the eradicated tiny function of Coridon).
The five-member refrain—soprano Foley, mezzo-soprano Mallory Harding, tenors Ryan Townsend Strand and Jianghai Ho and baritone Dorian McCall—supplied excellent ensemble singing all through. They opened the proceedings with a resplendent “Oh, the pleasure of the plains,” plumbed the tragedy of “Wretched lovers,” and floated a luminous coda in “Galatea, dry thy tears.”
Garry Grasinski’s video path received off to a busy begin. Within the opening Sinfonia the photographs of the masked orchestra members induced movement illness with needlessly quick and dizzying MTV-style enhancing, as if permitting a picture to final greater than three seconds may induce boredom. Fortuitously, the path settled down after that and served each the singers and Handel’s rating properly. Zuleyka V. Benitez’s engaging scenic panels properly painted the Arcadian milieu and introduced heat to the chilly studio venue.
A pair stately tempos threatened to pull the tempo at occasions, however for probably the most half Craig Trompeter led the ensemble with well-judged path. Balances had been impeccable, permitting the felicities of Handel’s scoring—piping recorders and melancholy oboes—to emerge in wealthy colours and with expressive detailing.
Handel’s Acis and Galatea is out there on-line by way of November 8. Tickets are $25. haymarketopera.org
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