Monday, March 16, 2015

show and concert

I didn't realize what a busy day I had planned for myself on Sunday until I checked my calendar.

Afternoon, a small-scale semi-concert presentation (it hardly rose to the elaborateness of semi-staged) of The Emerald Isle, Sir Arthur Sullivan's last operetta, the one he died halfway through composing and which was completed by Edward German, who launched his own operettic career thereby. The libretto by Basil Hood is not quite as agreeably goofy as that for The Rose of Persia, the previous Sullivan-Hood collaboration. It's a sentimental thing, about some motley Irish nationalist rebels vs. the Lord Lieutenant and a small troop of comic soldiers, with a couple of romances salted in, one between the chief rebel and the Lord Lt.'s daughter. It is, however, chock full of puns, most of them far better than W.S. Gilbert's more strained attempts at wordplay, reaching its eminence with the name of the Lord Lt.'s chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Fiddle, D.D.

The music is passable, with a couple lovely tunes but nothing really memorable nor naught much distinctly Irish, either, though Sullivan was of Irish origin (German was Welsh). The production, by a newish charity group called Free Range Opera, was just two performances on the small stage at the Mountain View CPA. Nevertheless, I saw six people I knew in the audience, the usual local G&S-attending gang. The lead tenor was down with allergies and could only sing about half his part; he mimed the rest while the conductor behind him sang it. The performers were lively and energetic, the best being Mark Blattel (who was also in San Jose Lyric Theater's Rose of Persia) as a goofy con man and Kathryn Benedicto as milady's noble-hearted maid. Blattel's character gets to provide the ridiculously tidy resolution of the plot, which reads like a parody of the self-encompassingly tidy resolutions Gilbert gave to Iolanthe and Ruddigore.

Then, rush up to the City for a concert by the visiting Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. A couple Bach keyboard concertos, led from the piano by Jeremy Denk, and the string serenades by Dvorak and Suk (the scherzo of the latter could easily have been written by the former), led by nobody except the concertmaster. Sir Neville is long retired, but the Academy still retains its smooth and glossy sound.

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