UWOpera presents Gianni Schicchi & Suor Angelica

Western reveals its talented student vocalists

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

UWOpera presents Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica

Courtesy of Janet Loo

IF THIS WAS THE SOUND OF MUSIC, WE COULD GET GWEN STEFANI TO SPOOF US IN A MUSIC VIDEO! UWOpera presents two of Puccini’s operas, Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica. The performances run again this upcoming weekend.

Gianni Schicchi & Suor Angelica
Directed by: Theodore Baerg and Sophie Roland-Wieczorek
Music director: James McKay

4 stars

Leave your preconceived notions about opera behind. UWOpera performs two one-act operas, Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica, with endearing professionalism and cultivated vocal skill.

Puccini’s Suor Angelica is a tragedy about a young nun, Suor Angelica, sent to a convent by her family for having a child out of wedlock. After hearing the news of her son’s death, she poisons herself, pleading to the Virgin Mary for redemption for her sin, suicide.

A sea of giggling young nuns with wide-eyed, animated expressions made opening scenes seem lighthearted. With all the nuns prancing about onstage, you almost wish they’d break into songs from The Sound of Music. Once Suor Angelica started singing, the opera’s tragic elements were revealed.

Taylor Matheson, who played Suor Angelica Saturday night, maintained a dynamically controlled voice and her powerful vocals weren’t overwhelming.

A scene between Suor Angelica and her cold aunt Principessa (Gabrielle Heidinger) made you believe someone could completely lack compassion. The heartbreaking scene about the news of Suor Angelica’s dead son set a dramatic tone for the play’s climatic final moments.

After intermission, Gianni Schicchi began, offering an immediate difference in tone with its timpani drum rolls and colourful 13th century Florentine set. Poppy-red curtains and gold pieces framed the deceased Buoso Donati’s chamber, which was filled with relatives “mourning” his death.

After discovering Donati left his fortune to friars, the desperate family schemes to change the will. The family convinces a peasant, Gianni Schicchi, to pretend to be a recovered Donati and get the lawyer to change the will. However, Schicchi gives himself everything, leaving the family with nothing once again.

With their velvet royal-coloured robes and their prolonged reactions, the opera’s range of farcical characters created live caricatures.

Rob Clark was highly entertaining as Gianni Schicchi. His chameleon antics " he switched from concerned parent to helpful friend to deceptive actor in a moment’s notice " encouraged laughter from the audience.

Impressive soprano performances by Bethany Horst, who played Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta, and a solid, contralto voice by Elizabeth Bonisteel, who played Donati’s cousin Zita, showcased the cast’s wide vocal range.

Since the operas are Italian, the audience was forced to divide its attention between the “surtitles” scrolling above the stage and the actions onstage. While adjusting to reading while watching takes a few moments, the surtitles enhanced the opera experience.

The short operas are highly recommended for students with short attention spans and an interest in artistic performance.

Gianni Schicchi & Suor Angelica plays Feb. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. at Talbot College. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students.

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