But that is OPERA.. one loves to hate it or hates to love it, depending on the hearer.
|photo SF reporter|
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
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...