As promised, the renowned overture to Rossini’s La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) by The Bronx Opera last Saturday night at Lehman College succeeded to dazzle. This overture and its interpretation by conductor Michael C. Haigler was worth the price of admission. But wait! There was more….how about a deftly articulated, not-so-heavy opera? Yes, what followed was a solid story, sung in English, with the obligatory misunderstandings of melodrama.
This opera was first performed in 1817 in Milan, but the overture has strangely modern overtones, so nothing antiquated here. The always rock-solid and dependable Bronx Opera orchestra delivered beautiful support to the singers, and the balance was spot on. In fact, the warmth of the human voice from both the strong chorus and the soloists were always clearly heard sans microphones, which is a rare experience for our digitally drowned ears: no mp3 bit rate quality problems to worry about audiophiles. This, among many other benefits, is the not-so-secret pleasure of regional, intimate opera performances like this one.
The chorus was particularly strong, but retained a unified softness much like the softness of the earthy colors chosen by the set designer Jim Howard, and the costume designers Joan Greenhut and Maureen Klein. The blending of the color and sound tones nicely recreated the rural village atmosphere for me.
Overall I enjoyed the songs which a have a familiar sound, but none stood out particularly during the telling of the story of a falsely accused servant. Of the singers, I enjoyed the fullness of Eric McKeever’s voice, which nicely conveyed desperateness as Fernando Villabella, father of the accused Ninetta. Also mentionable was Darcy Dunn playing the quirky servant Pippo. But, for me the stand-out caricature performance came from Daniel Klein as the Mayor, who was as fun to watch as to hear…and I must say the audience agreed with me without a doubt.
I would urge you to treat your ears to The Bronx Opera when it rolls into your neighborhood. provided your neighborhood is The Bronx – or Hempstead, Long Island, this Spring with La Boheme!
Come for the overture…and stay for the opera!
Christopher Sirota is a reviewer for OuterStage, Drama-Queens, and other online publications. He is also an actor and filmmaker.