The Manhattan School of Music (MSM) showcased two one-act operas this past fall in its newly renovated Neidorff-Karpati Hall that set the bar high for an exciting season ahead.
First Up, Rota
The first opera, Nino Rota’s “I Due Timidi” was the perfect choice of scenery to have on display for the new stage.
Scenic Designer Lee Savage showcased an intricate two-story boarding house with a full Italian courtyard filled with characters abound. The Narrator, Yi Yang, sang his aria “Le sette passate, finita e la pace” with a charming tone. And it was a heart-warming opening with each cast member participating in his or her daily activities as they interacted with one another singing “Buongiorno, buongiorno. Che freddo stamattina.”
The audience heard Heather O’Donovan, as Lucia, and Kaitlin Turner, as Maria, sing about their love lives along to Rota’s thematic music. Bridget Casey, as Lisa, also joined in the fun and all three maids sang together with enthusiasm and delight. Casey’s voice carried over the others as she passionately described her lover and all were interrupted by a loud radio playing jazz.
Vittorio, played by Laureano Quant, entered the courtyard and Lucia tried to persuade him. Carolina López Moreno, as Mariuccia, was seen for the first time at her window with her piano in the background. López Moreno played the piano effortlessly and with joy and captivated the audience with her grace and luscious vocal tonal colors.
Signora Guidotti, sung by Polixeni Tziouvaras, did an excellent portrayal of her character as everyone sang together in “Che e stato? Un ferito!”
In Scene Six, the tragic injury to Joseph Tancredi’s character Raimondo added to the suspense of the building drama in this opera, which fueled any hopes that one may have for Raimondo and Mariuccia to finally be together.
However, as Rota cleverly designed the plot twist, we hear both arias “Dottore! Dottore!” and “Amore, amore mio” which showcase Raimondo telling Signora Guidotti of his romantic interest instead of Mariuccia. Tancredi’s voice was stunning as he sang “Amore, amore mio,” and highlighted his ability to stretch with ease into his high notes with his pure tone. Tziouvaras comforted Tancredi as he laid in bed to rest and the story continued to further develop in an expected way.
In Mariuccia’s room, her mother, portrayed by Erin Reppenhagen, calls for a doctor after Mariuccia faints from learning about Raimondo’s injury. Reppenhagen consoles her daughter and sings beautifully in “Dottore! Dottore ci aiuti!” and “Mariuccia tesoro, cos’ha?” Dottor Sinisgalli, performed by Zhiyu Shi, responds to Mariuccia’s mother as he sings “Signora sua figlia non ha nulla” and is pleasantly surprised to find Mariuccia declaring love to him in response to his care for her. Shi’s character is a comic relief for the opera as he is seen running back and forth between caring for Mariuccia and Raimondo, while also doing a superb job singing and tending to every matter of concern.
While back in Raimondo’s room, we hear Tziouvaras sing tenderly in “Come stai? Hai dormito?” Raimondo is finally understanding what has happened and how he is now promised to Signora Guidotti.
Fast-forward to two years later, we catch a glimpse into the lives of both Mariuccia and Raimondo as they have settled with their partners. Both the Narrator and Raimondo sing the last aria “E dopo due anni” and tell of how everything has happened. A perfectly unsettling ending to Rota’s well-plotted one-act opera.
And Then, Puccini
Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” was the second one-act opera of the night and the scenery changed to the rigid atmosphere of an Italian convent where the audience heard all of the sisters and chorus sisters singing “Ave Maria” for opening prayer. The Reprimands, “Sorella in humilta,” were sung by Erin Reppenhagen as La Zelatrice, Mengran Jia as La Maestra delle Novizie, Michelle Capano and Cambrey Willhelm as Le Converse, Corinne DeJong as Suor Osmina, and the chorus of sisters.
During the story of the fountain, Hannah Friesen as Suor Genovieffe, Amanda Larkin, Lauren Curet, Duqingna, and Nicole Rowe as Le novizie, Xiaotong Cao as Suor Angelica and the chorus of sisters sing “O sorelle, sorelle.” This scene is special because we see how the sisters interact with each other and how Suor Angelica is developing into her life as a nun. Originally from an aristocratic Florentine family, Suor Angelica is now responsible for a new way of order and life. Cao sang with precision and emotion as she portrayed her character. She exuded the underlying current of devastation that Suor Angelica tries to hide in the beginning of this opera, and capitalized on the inevitable suicide that she succumbs to at the end.
Michelle Blauman, as La zia principessa, showcased a strong voice and was solid in her role while addressing Suor Angelica about all that has happened with the story of her illegitimate child. Cao responded in shock and horror to learn of the child’s death, which set up the final aria “Senza mamma” as the last blow to an already tortured soul. Cao sang the aria with an array of dark emotions that were desperate to find the divine light in a worst case scenario for any mother to endure.