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Frau Margot.


Thomas Pasatieri

Albany: Troy 965


Thomas Pasatieri has 19 operas to his credit, but this Fort Worth Opera commission, premiered in 2007, was his first in almost a quartet century. In 1983, the composer moved to Los Angeles and the movies, his work as an orchestrator encompassing such diverse releases as Stem of a Woman, The Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black and Finding Nemo. Actor/director Frank Corsaro, who had collaborated with Pasatieri as librettist earlier, lured the composer back to opera with a murderous tale that takes us into the macabre realm of Korngold's Die tote Stadt and the freakish space of Bette Davis's Norma Desmond. Corsaro based his libretto on a story told by Leonard Bernstein about approaching Alban Berg's widow with the idea of completing that composer's Lulu. Madame Berg denied Bernsrem's request after consulting the shade of her dead husband, a refusal that some have interpreted as a bitter wife's payback for marital infidelities. In the opera, Frau Margot Kunstler, a former diva whose best role was Strauss's Marschallin, is approached by a young American composer to complete her husband Erich's unfinished opera. She consults his spirit, who apparently approves the project. The composer falls in love with Fran Margot s companion, Kara Sundstrom, who, it turns out, was one of Erich's lovers and aborted the baby that resulted from their affair. There are other twists, but suffice to say that all ends badly, with Kara murdered by Fran Margot and the deranged diva consigned to a sanitorium.

My immediate reaction after listening to this release was that 1 would much like to see it staged. Pasatieri writes gratefully for the voice, the piece melodically driven and paced with a keen ear for dramatic contrast. Mood is an important element in this scenario, and Pasatieri's music is highly evocative. Though its written for full orchestra, it's not a dense score, and if you close your eyes sometimes, you can almost hear it playing out on a big screen. The dramatic characterization is particularly impressive, however, especially in the key relationship between Frau Margot and Kara, here vividly sung by soprano Lauren Flanigan and mezzo Patricia Risley. The piece was written with Flanigan in mind, and she audibly embraces Frau Margot with great relish.

The male leads provide excellent ensemble support, with baritone Morgan Smith as the young composer, tenor Allan Glassman as the agent Walter Engelmann and Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as the police inspector trying to figure it all out. Fort Worth Opera Music Director Joseph Illick conducts a live presentation of a piece whose viability is assured so long as there are divas like Flanigan with the musical and theatrical temperament to jump into Frau Margot's skin emotions first.--WG
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Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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