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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Event Review: Mirena e Floro

Welcome back Armand O'Bryan, my pen-named pal, with yet another BVAF review!

Nagged, cajoled and wheedled by my colleague Maria into attending yet another event offered by the fledgling Baltimore Vocal Arts Foundation, I found myself in Brown Center's Falvy Hall watching yet another unusual performance, which seems to be this organization's calling card.  "Love Between Acts - A Program of Operatic Intermezzi" was supposed to have been a dual presentation of Mirena e Floro by Francesco Gasparini and Giovanni Battista Bononcini alongside Pergolesi's famous La Serva Padrona.  Being more familiar with the Pergolesi work, I was disappointed to learn that it had been canceled due to a singer's illness. The company forged ahead with the earlier intermezzi,  an unusual compositional sandwiching of three scenes, bound together thematically only by the title characters' battle for dominance in their dysfunctional relationship.

The operatic intermezzo, literally meaning "in between", is not meant to tell a complete story.  Presenting brief, comic scenes, these works were used as inconsequential dramatic relief between the acts of larger, opera seria productions from the late Baroque to mid Classic eras. "Inconsequential" probably best describes the flimsy plot of Mirena e Floro, in which two combative lovers try rather unsuccessfully to resolve deep-seated and unexplained trust issues. The difference in compositional style between the sections by Gasparini and those by Bononcini would not have been evident  when the works were presented as separate entities placed between acts, but when offered side by side, the disconnect is more obvious.  Bononcini proves more adept at setting musical comedy, while lyrical melodies flow more easily from Gasparini. The overall effect makes almost as much musical and dramatic sense as watching un-sequenced re-runs of "I Love Lucy". 

Baritone Andrew Sauvageau and soprano Laura Strickling were for the most part equal to the challenges presented by this trilogy, with Strickling playing straight-man to Sauvageau's incredibly nimble comic antics.  Sauvageau proved the consummate singing actor. Vocally and physically flexible, he was a delight to the eye and ear.  Ms. Strickling, while somewhat unsteady at the onset, grew stronger as the show progressed and delivered lush tone and impressive vocal pyrotechnics in the third intermezzi. Some clever staging and overt hamming made this non-sensical work bearable, but it is easy to see why Mirena e Floro has not endured in standard operatic repertoire.

If you want to see the La Serva Padrona, the show that was canceled, BVAF has a Youtube channel with the production from January at Baltimore Theater Project.

Trapped Backstage,
-Maria (& Armand!)

PS - And there was no cajoling or nagging involved. It was Artscape; everyone wants to go to Artscape.

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