About Me

My photo
Split personality. Liking the arts, especially opera, and hockey and Los Toros. I know, I know THAT one is non pc currently. But I can't help it saw some in Spain and got hooked, but good. But on the other hand right now opera and hockey are in the forefront!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Last Savage

a savagely hooty piece of musical comedy - a lighthearted counterpiece to last night's Griselda, which in hindsight looms rather ponderously.

But that is OPERA.. one loves to hate it or hates to love it, depending on the hearer.
photo SF reporter
The last opera on this pilgrimage to Santa Fe was Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Last Savage"- a comic opera with some music of  gracefulness and sweetness. It is directed as a spoof with no pretensions to high brow art. And so with its pleasant arias and one superb septet the opera is truly entertaining. The libretto is of a banality, for example "I would look like a fool, I have never been to school" but under the direction of Ned Canty it becomes a perfect example of 'over the top' FUN and the audience lapped it up showing its appreciation by loud applause and even louder Bravi...a bit overdone IMO when it's applied to the singing, which was fun to listen to but was more akin the musical variety.

The first US presentation on 23 January 1964 at the Met had set by Montresor, was performed in English using a translation by George Mead and onducted by Thomas Schippers. The cast, included George London as Abdul, Roberta Peters as Kitty, Teresa Stratas  as Sardula, Nicolai Gedda as Kodanda, Ezio Flagello as Maharajah, Lili Chookasian as Maharanee, and Morley Meredith as Scattergood. And that cast is perhaps the most famous and talented one ever assembled for this operatic piece of froth!

The Cast in Santa Fe numbered so many comprimario roles, too numerous to mention in detail, but here are a clip or two by some singers from other diverse operas to show their art
Sardula -
Jennifer Zetlan, a lovely soubrette soprano whose voice improved greatly as the night wore on.

Kitty - Anna Christy,
another soubrette, with some trilling high notes sweetly projected. Christy showed rather good comic timing as well.

Maharanee - Jamie Barton,
a vast voice in a vast costume (on purpose-that one was one of those over the top comic effects which worked beautifully) Jamie has her comic timing down pat on top of her rich mezzo.

Kodanda - Sean Pannikar,a young tenor with, so it seems, a bright future.

Abdul - Daniel Okulitch,  the Canadian baritone, who can  'barit' -well, not quite all this time, but who can certainly give famed Operahunk Gunn as good a fight in the 'buff'line.

Mr. Scattergood - Kevin Burdette, a bright highlying bass with almost perfect timing and great stage presence

Maharajah - Thomas Hammons, bass, with his gravely tones a good match to the Maharanee of Barton,

Conductor - George Manahan, had the orchestra well in hand.

Lighting Designer - Rick Fisher-used mostly bright and brilliant colors much appreciated as Mother Nature, again as the night before, did her share with blustering chill winds and spots of rain plus thunder from ominous black clouds

Costume Designer & Scenic Designer - Allen Moyer - whose outlandishly lavish costumes were fun to look at, especially when bared down to loincloths looking like adult diapers and beards as in the turbaned dancers (huge crowd favorites-thanks to the super choreography by Sean Curran). 
His clever stage sets brilliantly designed in diorama style with huge lettering a la graffiti...culminating in amusing vignettes as  for example at the opera's end: a Zoo with the "Last Savage and his Mate" in a moated 'natural environment' cage, being viewed by convent schoolgirls and a nun on a school fieldtrip.
Just tooo funny.
As was the tongue in cheek treatment of 'high society', with its pretentious (the less understandable the more admired) poets, painters, scientists physicians, mondaines, blase cocktail crowd, etc. All that, of course, requires a huge cast of singers, dancers, and supers.

I am not sure if the libretto heard at Santa Fe was 100% the original or if it had been a bit doctored to reflect the current political and social environment? However, it worked rather well in a 'laugh at ourselves' kinda way. .

All in all, The Last Savage by Menotti is a frothy delightful musical romp with no pretensions to 'grand opera' (other than the huge cast). The music is light fare, mostly melodious and pleasing to the ear of even the most non opera fan, even if there are no arias that stand out and could be hummed forever after.
One left at almost midnight with a light heart and happy in laughter.

A sample of Menotti's music.. 

No comments: