"Here's the story of the Mozart curtain-raiser you will hear," the
ever-splendid Donald Pippin intoned before today's Pocket Opera performance
in the Legion of Honor: "A couple goes into a store, and ask the proprietor
if he has a ribbon. The man says no. The couple asks again, the proprietor
looks, and finds a ribbon. Curtain."
Even without Pippin's inimitable delivery, that sounds weird and funny.
But the 10-minute dissertation by Pippin about his deep-structure research
into Mozart's possible reasons, the pentimento elements of the piece
from Mozart's "minimalist, echt-Glass period," and Pippin's translatorly
hermeneutics added up to one of my most hilarious experiences in opera.
The actual performance of "The Ribbon" - all four minutes of it - was
pleasant but somehow anticlimactic - small wonder!
The main course, Offenbach's "Carnival in Venice," was among the best
G&S pieces Gilbert & Sullivan never wrote, at least, in Pippin's production.
A large, enthusiastic cast and the the Pocket Philharmonic did wonders
with the work (which - truth be told - isn't much more complex than "The
Ribbon") but one singer just blew them all away, without trying, without
Sonia Gariaeff is still a student - on her way from the San Francisco
Conservatory of Music to Manchester's Royal College of Music - a very
young singer with a very mature combination of vibrato, projection,
and a quality of excitement without pushing. ("Trying too hard" is just
a problem for some of the otherwise fine Merola and Adler singers!) In
the trouser role of Amoroso, Gariaeff was just that - eager, romantic,
intense... and yet staying within Offenbach's comic idiom. Hers is a
lovely sound, as local audiences know from Schumann's "Das Paradies und
die Peri" (SF Symphony) and roles with a number of regional houses.
Manchester listeners are in for a treat.
Unrelated item: some 20 years ago, I had one of those "mystery radio"
experiences - you hear a piece of music, but miss both the introduction
and the ID at the end, so you're pretty much up the creek. What I heard
was a witches' sabbath contralto piece that sent shivers up my spine.
After only two decades, a friend came up today with the real thing: the
"Es geschah" section from Schnittke's "Seid Nuchtern und Wachet," known
as the "Faust Cantata." It's what remained of a Faust opera Schnittke
had planned. The BIS recording is with DePriest and the Malmo Symphony,
the Ima-Sumac type *mezzo* is Inger Blom. Don't let 20 years pass before
you get to hear it.
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