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Monday, November 28, 2011

Don Giovanni and Souvenir



Arts marketers have caught on that most of us are stir crazy of a Thanksgiving weekend when the endless turkey variants and the love and kisses from dear ones near and far all go stale, and its time to get out of the house.

Here is Columbus we're lucky to have an enforced afternoon of, well-not rest, I'm not sure what it was-The Game with That school Up North takes a lot of pre-season bulking and post game trauma and soothing. What a weekend this was to sate any emotional needs!

Friday night saw the official opening of CATCO/Phoenix's production of Stephen Temperley's Sovenir at the Riffe Center. Steven Anderson directed the play with clarity and love and without a shred of condescension or eye rolling. Souvenir tells the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) and her quest for a career with the opera and art song greats. At a time when Rosa Ponselle, Lotte Lehmann, Ezio Pinza and Jussi Bjoerling were going strong, Mme. Jenkins, out of Wilkes-Barre, PA saw herself in the pantheon. Indeed. She had no talent whatsoever. When we meet her, she's been giving private recitals for er h200 best friends for years. There are plenty of cheers...of derision rather than for a well turned musical phrase. The lady was tone deaf.

It would be too easy to make fun, and to enjoy a cruel sneer at one person's happy illusions. That doesn't happen here. Florence loves music and she wants you to love music, too. Kudos to Linda Dorff, a beloved actress hereabouts, who never stooped to parody. Nor did the multi-talented Matt Clemens, whose portrayal of Cosme McMoon, Madame's accompanist-and enabler?- lets us in the joke but assures us the joke isn't very good.

Souvenir is very good, blessed by two wonderful performances. Go see it. Laugh and have a good cry for yourself. Linda and Matt's final four minutes are worth the price of admission.

Saturday was The Game. Couch potatoes all, with plenty of lo-cal Gatorade, and turkey sandwiches, turkey hash and turkey ice cream,. The Game was enjoyed at home. Enough said.

Sunday afternoon was the second of two performances of Mozart's Don Giovanni . This was the reconstituted Opera/Columbus (thank you, CAPA) presenting the Canadian Company Opera Atelier at the Southern Theatre. The Southern spoils the audience for hearing music anywhere else in town. Opera Atelier presented a cast of dishy young artists, with (blessedly) the Columbus symphony and several familiar faces in the chorus. There was not a bad voice among the soloists. Quite the contrary. The staging reflected the giocoso element of dramma giocoso. Movements owed a lot to baroque dance and were charming and funny rather than affected and phony. I will say that in none of the homes of regie-opera, not in Cologne, Braunshweig or Baden-Baden have I seen Leporello spanked by Don G. Only in Columbus.

Opera Atelier brought us a fine production to see and hear. The excellent voices made the excising of three great arias all the more regrettable. (Don't talk to me about Prague and Vienna versions. I know. I was nearly there. You got the voices...let 'em sing!)

The packed house cheered the artists, from Canada and Columbus to the walls. More! More!

OK, one caveat: Weight Watchers flunkees like me should not audition for this company. They would send the Pav to the gym and Dame Joan herself to a fat farm.But again, this Don Giovanni sounded and looked wonderful.

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