Opera makes lasting impression
In an explosion of laughter and applause, the Moores School of Music bid farewell to some 200 guests Friday and Saturday as the curtain fell on Moores Opera Center’s 2013-14 season kick-off production, “The Italian Straw Hat.”
Set in early 20th-century Paris, the opera follows soon-to-be husband Fadinard (Tyler Beck and Brian Yeakley) on his wedding day. While venturing to his quaint home to make preparations for his future wife and in-laws, his horse snacks on a lovely straw hat belonging to Anaide (Megan Gryga and Leah Bobbey), a young married woman engaged in an illicit affair with a military lieutenant. When her lover, Emilio (Matthew Konopacki and Heath Martin), demands a replacement, things go from bad to worse for the flustered hero.
Fadinard must somehow find an exact replica of the garment his horse destroyed while both entertaining the wedding party and placating his short-tempered father-in-law before calling off the entire matrimony.
“It’s practically a perfect farce,” said Buck Ross, director of the Moores Opera Center, in a press release. “It’s very tightly written and perhaps one of the funniest operas of the repertoire.”
Originally premiering in 1955 in Italy, “The Italian Straw Hat” became a favorite production by Oscar-winning composer Nino Rota, best known for his film scores from “The Godfather” series and “Romeo and Juliet.” Rota’s opera is based on an 1851 play by Eugene Labiche and Marc Michel.
Although the opera was sung in its original Italian and the plot had enough twists to complicate even the simplest of productions, Moores displayed English subtitles on a screen above the stage and the student actors effortlessly delivered their lines in a manner that kept audience members glued to their seats.
The Moores School Symphony Orchestra, directed by Brian Suits, seemed to be the determining factor of the production’s success. Alternating between almost romantic melodies, upbeat shanties and dramatic anthems, the musical accompaniment could have told the story on its own.
Almost paling in comparison, the libretto of the first act, particularly with certain male characters, struggled at times to match the desired volume a five-star performance would require, but the actors made up for it with enthusiasm in their facial expressions and movements across the stage.
The appearance of Elena (Kyla Knox and Katrina Van Maanen) notably boosted her castmates’ performance output with a flawless and beautiful introductory ballad. Her lines often consisted of a single note held out, yet they were sobering and perfectly delivered.
“The Italian Straw Hat” is being performed for the last time of the season at 7:30 p.m. today at the Moores Opera Center. Tickets are $12 for students.
Moores’ next opera, “The Consul,” will be premiere Jan. 23. For more details, visit www.music.uh.edu/opera/.