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Opera In Concert.

Toronto's Opera In Concert celebrated the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death by mounting his best-known opera, Il mondo della luna, on Feb. 1 at Toronto's Jane Mallet Theatre. The Aradia Ensemble conducted by Kevin Mallon enriched the presentation, ensuring a rich musical experience that was tasteful and sensitive even at brisk tempos.

This dramma giocoso has a wickedly funny libretto by Carlo Goldoni, heavy on requited love that can only be consummated with endless trickery Among the 11 characters are three would-be couples, while the chief obstacle to marriage is the wealthy Buonofede. He is duped by a charlatan astronomer (Ecclitico), a knight (Ernesto) and his servant (Cecco) into believing he's been transported to the moon, where the local lunatics worship love and maintain politically incorrect practices, such as strict oppression of women. Softened up before the astral voyage by watching maids disrobe through a fake telescope and a stultifying potion, Buonofede eventually agrees to the triple marriage--his daughters Flaminia and Clarice to Ernesto and Ecclitico respectively, and his maid Lisetta to Cecco. The old man eventually realizes the deception, but forgives the tricksters and all cheer the good fortune brought by the moon to the world.

The limitations of opera presented in concert in a small venue were overcome by a young Canadian cast that demonstrated again how acting plays a bigger role in such a context than in mainstage opera, especially when the aim is to balance comedy and drama, reality and fantasy, folly and reconciliation. OIC General Director Guillermo Silva-Marin always underlines acting in his productions.

This Haydn may offer superficial characterization and slack dramatic structure, but there are still great opportunities for first-rank singers to make their mark. Mezzo Wallis Giunta was in fine voice in the trouser role of Ernesto, her tender legato lines, passionate execution and stylish assurance a delight. Her melodic fluency was matched by other cast members--lyric soprano Charlotte Corwin compelling with secure intonation, comfortable coloratura and beguiling charm as Flaminia and soprano Feanna Hendriks impressing as the willful Clarice with a sturdy but unforced approach that was warm and purposeful. Mezzo Jenny Cohen (Lisetta) was always engaging, with easy technical command.

Jon-Paul Decosse added a full-bodied, substantial bass-baritone to a big range in the thankless role of the credulous Buonafede, his well-rounded characterization an excellent debut for OIC. Tenor Marcel van Neer maintained Ecclitico's crafty cynicism throughout this satire of life on earth, risking high phrasing that could easily have gone astray but keeping his incisive diction and resourceful interpretation intact. Tenor Cian Harrobin as Cecco was a lively, virile presence. Under Mallon's always-alert music direction, the voices got better as the production unfolded, climaxing in elegantly turned duets, trios and a vibrant, seven-part ensemble to close Act II.
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Author:Chapman, Geoff
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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