Reviewed by Tony Villecco
Tri-Cities Opera concludes its season this weekend with a lush and haunting interpretation of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. When I attended the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday (April 27), there were a few rough spots and some stop-and-go, but, overall, it is another excellent production with a fine cast and a stunning orchestra led by John Mario Di Costanzo.
I did not believe tenor Kirk Doughtery could get any better, but, as Hoffmann, he has. The voice has developed a lovely enveloping bloom and a riveting top, and he had no trouble with the role’s consistently high tessitura. He embodied the brooding, tormented poet who loses his loves, offering fine acting and facial expressions that were crucial in the character development. One can only wait with anticipation his first “Faust” or “Werther.”
In the roles of Nicklausse, the Muse and Antonio’s mother, Cabiria Jacobsen was exceptional. Hers is a well-rounded and warm mezzo, evenly placed with ease in her vocal registers. As many of the singers performed multiple roles, special recognition must be given to stage director Michael Ehrman, who has devised both funny and poignant moments in the opera’s progression.
As the mechanical doll Olympia, soprano Meghan Cakalli overcame some initial pitch problems, displaying a bright and fluid coloratura. Her mechanical movements and the fact she had to sing on roller skates made her characterization even more impressive. Julie Hamula portrayed the suffering singer Antonia with a pliable and rich soprano and was convincing in presenting a tragic heroine whose own voice becomes her demise.
? Lee started timidly as the courtesan Giulietta or perhaps, because it was a rehearsal, she was marking. She soon, however, transformed herself into a vixen (she is naturally beautiful) and sang stronger and richer as the act progressed. Particularly effective was her acting in which a sensual orgy, of sorts, is taking place to the opera’s most famous melody, the “Barcarolle” (or “Night of Love”).
Tenor Steven Nanni as Olympia’s creator, a mad scientist of sorts, was very funny as the effeminate doll maker. His voice is lovely though a shade less effective than the tenor of Doughtery.
What can one say about bass-baritone Will Roberts? He has, again, created memorable villains with his strong and penetrating voice. His acting was perhaps the best of the evening; depicting the evil of three very different characters with some smart staging by Ehrman. Look out for how his Dr. Miracle uses his hands and fingers. He is an actor to be reckoned with.
The chorus was fine, its balance and sound filling the Forum stage. Unique and, at turns, individual character parts are not to be missed. The only times the choristers appeared uncomfortable were in the dance sequences in which they were not always coordinated.
Most secondary roles were done very well, again with singers assuming multiple characters. John Rozzoni’s lush baritone defined Crespel and Hermann with ease. Stephen Dell’Aversano sang the roles of Schlemil and Luther effectively with Brister Hay as Nathanael. Special mention must be made of tenor Richard G. Leonberger, specifically as Franz. He was very comical and had a pleasing tenor to boot.
Costumes by Dell’Aversano were handsome; the colorful pink wigs were particularly effective. The creative and striking sets by S. Mclean were lovely (pay attention to the portrait scene) as well as the gondola (Venice) setting with a palette of colors, fabrics and flats. The lighting, while still being adjusted, was by Russ Swift, who bathed the stage in red for Antonio — very appropriate. All in all, another winner for TCO.
Performances are 8 p.m. Friday (April 29) and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 1) at The Forum in Binghamton. Details: www.tricitiesopera.com.