Dates and Venue 11, 12, and 13 July 2014, 7.30pm (matinée 12 July at 2pm) | Marpole United Church, 1296 West 67th Ave., Vancouver
Lucy Allison Cociani Ben Ed Moran
Piano Roger Parton Stage Director Jason Cook Costume Designer Stephanie Ko Lighting Designer Sara Smith
Sung in English
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
Opera Mariposa has presented another interesting programme where production values take a back seat to high quality performance. Gian Carlo Menotti’s sharp little take on technology and relationships, The Telephone follows a short concert of English-language, mostly American (in ethos if not technically so) arias showcasing a number of local singers.
The selections were romantic, dramatic, wistful, comic and more by turns, and all were extremely well performed. The programme was constantly interesting, with several Weill and Menotti pieces which are not often heard interspersed with some old favourites such as Gershwin’s "Summertime" (performed by Maya Siegel) and Weill’s "Surabaya Johnny" (sung by Claire McLaughlin). Jacqueline Ko’s sophisticated delivery of “Afraid, am I afraid?” from Menotti’s The Medium, was thrilling. Ko knows exactly what to do with an absolutely gorgeous voice, and her acting as the haunted Baba can send chills up the spine.
Riley McMitchell’s rich and lyrical baritone lent sweetness to Menotti's "When the Air Sings of Summer” in contrast to the same composer’s "I know that you all hate me" sung with ferocity by Sergio Augusto Flores. “Glitter and be gay” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, performed by a frenetic Allison Cociani as Cunegonde and “The Song that Goes Like This,” Eric Idle’s spoof of Broadway musical blockbusters from Spamalot, with a sparkling Robin Eder-Warren and bemused Jason Cook, bracketed the concert with humour.
The Telephone dates from 1945, but its focus is still topical. The ubiquity and use of mobile phones today is a very close parallel to a time when telephone networks had grown significantly and changed the ways people communicated with each other. With a light touch and engaging music, Menotti’s little opera sparkles as the amiable Ben (Ed Moran), on his way catch his train, is so blown away by nerves he cannot come to the point and propose to Lucy (Allison Cociani). The somewhat vapid but charming Lucy spends most of the time on the phone talking to other people. Lucy becomes overwrought, Ben becomes more agitated. Ben leaves. If the characters lack rapport on stage, it is clearly intentional. Both performers are not only fine singers but also excellent singing actors, neatly matching their vocal and dramatic characterizations. The eventual happy ending resolves in satisfying harmony.
There is a third player in this little drama and that lies in the music, played with verve and wit on the piano by Roger Parton. Whether the music represented the other voice in Lucy’s telephone conversations, or became as anxious as Ben, Parton never missed a beat. He was equally sympathetic to mood and character as accompanist to the concert solos.
Lucy’s zingy turquoise telephone and her scarlet polka-dot shirt-waist brightened up a straightforward period set with clever humour. The lighting was effective and efficiently managed. The evening ended with a rousing chorus by the whole cast of the title song from Sondheim's Company - which also features a telephone. First time stage director Jason Cook should be well satisfied with his work.
The Telephone repeats with a different cast featuring Robin Eder-Warren and Riley McMitchell as Lucy and Ben.
© 2014 Elizabeth Paterson