Volume 91, Issue 82

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Lady Liberty


A sud-free opera that's squeaky clean

By Christina Vardanis
Gazette Staff

Although it is undoubtedly the culmination of musical theatre, the opera tends to elicit one of two extreme responses from the general population. It can either provoke an emotional catharsis and leave everyone weeping, or it can be the best place to guarantee a solid three-hour nap. Even the legendary Diane Chambers, an apex of cultural appreciation, couldn't quite keep her eyes open while trying to expose the rest of the Cheer's gang to the magic of opera.

What stands between this wonderful musical accomplishment and mass appreciation is usually its length and the language barrier. Listening to someone, typically thought of as a fat lady, scream in Italian for hours on end isn't exactly appealing. The Opera Workshop's production of two one-act Puccini operas at Talbot College tackles these issues and proves that opera is not about words, but about emotion. Both shows are blow-away performances that may even leave you humming an aria or two on the way out.

The first opera, Suor Angelica, opens in an Italian Abbey and reveals the secret past of Sister Angelica, torn between devotion to her faith and to herself. It is performed in its original Italian tongue, but director Theodore Boerg aids the inexperienced opera-goer with subtitles for the script that hover above the scene. While at first these are distracting, the pace of the dialogue quickly becomes familiar and it's possible to enjoy the drama on the stage, as well as catch the details of the story. Jennifer Moir gives an astounding performance of Sister Angelica and brings a passion to her gut-wrenching story that is contagious and completely enrapturing.

The second opera, Gianni Schicchi, in English, develops in a classic comedy-of-errors style and pokes some of fun at typical operatic characters. A family in Florence grieves after the death of an old rich cousin, however, their mourning has more to do with his last will and testament, which leaves them high and dry. Master deceiver Gianni Schicchi, played by Kevin Sean Pook, is called upon to remedy the situation.

Pook's performance brings confidence and experience to the stage, as he takes the family on a wild ride. The ensemble cast in this show, from the greedy cousin right down to the family drunk, is outstanding. They take the old adage "you're part is only as small as you make it" to the nines, as each character is played with absolute enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Colin Ainsworth gives an especially memorable performance as Rinuccio, the pie-eyed nephew who is stupid-in-love with Schicchi's daughter. His vulnerability and love-makes-the-world-go-round attitude is both heartwarming and hilarious.

James McKay directs the musical score with absolute perfection. In true operatic fashion, he creates a wickedly emotional journey and lets the notes tell the story. This performance is definitely worth experiencing and is guaranteed to bring out the fat lady in everybody.

Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi run from March 5-7 at Talbot College. Tickets are available at the Infosource or at the door, subject to availability.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998