Double bill's contrast is the right balance

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By Melissa Riedel-Espinoza

At times, it seems as though most audiences feel that an evening at the opera is intended to be long, boring and stuffy, with a minimum of laughter. However, Santa Fe’s offering of Mozart’s “The Impresario” paired with Stravinsky’s “Le Rossignol” may change some minds.
The first opera of the evening is “The Impresario,” a short, one-act piece by Mozart. This particular singspiel (the term for comic German operas with spoken dialogue instead of singing) is a short, humorous one-act work.
Mozart intended the humor to be relevant, so the dialogue is changed to appeal to audiences to whom it is presented. Director Michael Gieleta folded in some of Mozart’s impressive concert arias and worked with dramatist Ranjit Bolt to create English dialogue that would appeal to 21st century audiences. The result is witty, and an interesting commentary on the difficulty of balancing what is popular with what is artistically satisfying.
Mozart’s opera is followed by a contrasting work: Igor Stravinsky’s sublime “Le Rossignol.” Many may be familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperor and his mechanical bird, which is flashy but cannot replace the lovely song of the real nightingale.
Both operas are typically paired with a second piece, due to their brevity, but this particular pairing is new, and it works very well. The easy brightness of the Mozart adds dimension to Stravinsky’s complex sound, and the visual change from piece to piece is striking.
Kevin Burdette brings fine comedic timing and clean diction, even when singing at high speeds, to his role as Otto van der Puff, the business manager in “The Impresario.” Meredith Arwady, as Clotichilda Krone, is delightful, with a resonant voice and a series of hilarious facial expressions. Brenda Rae is outstanding as Vlada Vladimirescu, a stereotypical prima donna who can sing very, very expressively and will do so at any given opportunity.
The entire cast is believable and they have great chemistry, which enhances this already enjoyable piece.
The singers have different roles in “Le Rossignol,” which showcases Erin Morley as The Nightingale. With easy-sounding melismatic passages and a face and costume that are perfection, this role fits her like a glove. With Bruce Sledge’s gorgeous singing as the Fisherman and the panels that provide a moving backdrop, and the props, costumes and staging, this opera is a flawless little jewel.
Along with the vocal talent, audiences are treated to dancers with technical skill and admirable comedic timing in “The Impresario.” Dancer Xiaoxiao Wang’s graceful and controlled portrayal of the mechanical bird in “Le Rossignol” is impressive, as well, and the other dancers, as “artists,” have significant visual impact.
At just over two hours, these two operas contain something for most any person. For those who prefer a light-hearted, good-humored evening’s entertainment, “The Impresario” will be a pleasant diversion; for those who prefer something more contemporary with slightly more depth, “Le Rossignol” is a wonderful fit.
Santa Fe has made a combination that is appealing, beautiful and well worth attending.