Dates and Venue February 4, 5 & 6 at 7:30pm, February 7 at 2 pm | Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, UBC
Director Nancy Hermiston Conductor Jonathan Girard Set Designer Rebecca Burks Lighting Designer Jeremy Baxter Stage Manager Jacqueline Wax
Duke Scott Rumble Caramello Brent MacKenzie Pappacoda Ian McCloy Annina Nicole Brooks Ciboletta Tamar Simon Barbara Elena Razlog Delacqua Geoffrey Schellenberg Agricola Moriah Wax Signora Ubriaco Nancy Hermiston with the UBC Opera Ensemble and the UBC Symphony Orchestra
Sung in German with English surtitles
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
If Strauss dance music, silly jokes and light-hearted humour are your way to spend a dreary February evening, then head for UBC Opera’s production of Eine Nacht in Venedig. Lush music by the Waltz king, Johann Strauss the younger, and a plot set during the Venice Carnival provides an evening of gaiety featuring a lascivious Count, clever servants, three Senators (who must be close relatives of the Three Stooges), masks and multiple disguises.
The plot, such as it is, is fired by the return visit of the womanising Duke of Urbino (Scott Rumble) to the Venice Carnival. The Venetian Senators have forbidden their wives to attend his masquerade ball, and one, Delacqua (Geoffrey Schellenberg), plans to send his wife Barbara away by gondola to Murano. Meanwhile, Pappacoda (Ian McCloy), maker of spaghetti as “long as the Grand Canal”, would like a job in the Duke’s kitchens, but until then he can’t marry his girlfriend Ciboletta (Tamar Simon); Annina (Nicole Brooks), a local fisher, is waiting to see the possibly faithless Caramello, the Duke’s barber, and Caramello (Brent MacKenzie) would like a promotion. The Duke can’t wait to meet Barbara again but Barbara plans to use the opportunity to meet her handsome young nephew (Spencer Britten).
Cast and orchestra grew in confidence from a rather tentative beginning to a lively interpretation. Geoffrey Schellenberg (Senator Delacqua) disguised his pleasing voice under a fussy demeanour and, like his fellow senators Stephen Duncan and Matthew McLellan, a physically overpowering wig and gown. Together they made a larky triple act..
Brent Mackenzie (Caramello) and Ian McCloy (Pappacoda) both developed effective dramatic and musical characters. Pappacoda’s opening aria “Ihr habt euren Markusplatz”, was energetically extrovert, but his later duet with Ciboletta, “Take take tak erst hack ich fein”, really came to life. Likewise, Caramello’s gondolier song “Komm’ in die Gondel, mein Liebchen” was as smooth and creamy as his name; “Ach, wie so herrlich zu schauen” (otherwise known as the “Lagunen Walzer”) even more so.
Annina’s entrance on a boat singing the swooping “Fruitti di mare” presented no problems to Nicle Brook’s ringing soprano. She shone throughout, as did the feisty Tamar Simon as Ciboletta. Scott Rumble’s clear tones rose over the orchestra with ease and he clearly relished his role.
In a twist of the plot (one of many) the Senator’s wives manage to get to the masquerade. Mezzo Moriah Wax triumphed in her small role as Agricola, forcefully dallying with the Duke. In a surprise piece of casting, Nancy Hermiston herself took the cameo role of Signora Ubriaco, delivering a master class in the subtle art of broad comedy.
It was a pleasure to see the opera ensemble chorus on the spacious Chan stage rather than in the crowded confines of the Old Aud. It is doubtful if some of the young voices of the principals could be heard all the way to the back rows, but near the front they carried over the orchestra with clean attack, clear diction, and precise phrasing.
The stage also allowed a much bigger set (by Rebecca Burks) with elegant opposing balconies, Venetian bridges and, delightfully, boats which were propelled from one side of the stage to the other, winding around buildings and under a bridge. There was also plenty of room for dancing to Strauss’ foot-tapping music which the UBC Symphony Orchestra under Jonathan Girard played with skill and enthusiasm. Dancing comes a weak third to singing and acting for the Opera Ensemble, which is a pity.
If this production doesn’t quite have the richness and sophistication to completely pull this operetta off, it is nevertheless one well worth attending.
© 2016 Elizabeth Paterson