Dallas — Opera in Concert closed its 2015-2016 season on May 21 with “Bravo Rossini!” a concert in celebration of the opera and songs of the legendary Italian composer. The performance took place in the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas, and showcased OIC’s cast of both up-and-coming talents, as well as veterans. Featured among them were former Metropolitan Opera and Dallas Opera bass-baritones, Edward Crafts and Stephen Morscheck, along with tenor Martin Clark and pianist/music director Stephen Dubberly.
The company, whose self-stated mission is “introducing the public to seldom-performed operatic masterpieces,” served up a varied program that, in tribute to Rossini’s passion for food, took the form of a multi-course meal. A smattering of songs and duets taken mostly from Rossini's “Serate Musicali” whet the audience's appetite before the main course, the one-act opera farsa comica, La Cambiale di Matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), a classic operatic tale of unbridled young love.
A wonderful introduction to the opera buffa genre that Rossini was instrumental in creating, the music’s bel canto style provides a vehicle for vocal showcasing that includes the composer’s famously memorable melodies along with arias and duets that are rife with long melismas and shimmering coloratura. While some voices in Saturday’s production struggled in navigating these technical challenges over the course of the whole show, others shone brightly. In particular the young Martin Clark was a joy to listen to. Not only vocally but also dramatically the tenor, who played the young lover Edward, displayed all the subtlety and stamina of a seasoned professional, right to the last note.
An overall highlight of the evening was the onstage chemistry between the cast members. In lieu of a large set, the performers filled the stage with their personalities. Mezzo-soprano Charis Peden and bass John Kuether were a delightful comedic duo, collectively functioning, to the aid of the audience, as the opera’s conscience; their characters employed a wealth of side-along glances and musical commentaries on the affairs of Fanny and Edward, keeping the audience ever informed and encouraged that innocent love would prevail. Another standout was Morscheck who, embodying the buffoonery of the Sir Toby Mill so convincingly, seemed to elevate the acting of every performer he shared scenes with.
OIC’s decision to replace the original Italian recitative with spoken dialogue harkens back to a similar historical practice of spoken text being translated to the language or dialect of the audience. In Saturday’s production, especially with the strong acting skills of the cast to lean upon, this translated well.
All of these things combined to make “Bravo Rossini!” a square meal of fine Italian opera.