Mozart and Menotti make ’em laugh

They’re a perfect pair – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief. These light-hearted one-act comedies will be presented by young professional-level singers in York University’s Summer Opera Program on July 21, 22 and 24 at 7:30pm and July 25 at 2pm. Seldom performed, this unique repertoire offers opera lovers a rare gem of a performance.

Der Schauspieldirektor – better known as The Impresario – is a comic German singspiel that Mozart wrote in 1786, as his entry in a musical competition sponsored by Austrian Emperor Joseph II at the Schönbrunn palace in Vienna.

Left: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This musical drama is a silly farce about an impresario and his dealings with a troupe of performers, especially two feisty prima donnas. The opera opens with the impresario and his assistant assembling a company of actors and singers who are all squabbling over pre-eminence and pay. Two singers audition for the impresario, but only one of them can be the prima donna, and they end up arguing in a hilarious trio. In the finale, both ladies are promised star-billing and large salaries to end the quarrel and for the sake of art.

Mr. Scruples, the impresario, is portrayed by Graham Annig. Other characters include Mr. Buff, the impresario’s assistant, played by Curtis Clarke and Mr. Angel, the banker, played by Rory McGlynn. The parts of Miss Goldenpeal and Miss Silverspool, the prima donnas, are played by Sharleen Joynt and Jennifer Schnizel respectively.

Norma Burrowes is the stage directer, while Nicole Bellamy is the pianist and musical director. Singing will be in German, with English dialogue.

The Impresario will delight audiences with its cast of exaggerated characters, highly improbable plot situation and slapstick elements, while the opera’s overture is charming.

One of Menotti’s most popular works, The Old Maid and the Thief was first staged in Philadelphia in 1941. This one-act comedy with a quirky twist was an immediate hit with audiences and critics alike, catapulting the 30-year-old Menotti to fame.

Right: Gian Carlo Menotti

The story unfolds with Miss Todd, an old maid, welcoming Bob, a beggar, into her home as a permanent lodger. Desperate for male company, she treats him royally. In her efforts to satisfy him, she resorts to stealing. Later, Miss Todd learns of an escaped thief whose description fits Bob and she tells him of this. Bob insists he is innocent, and suggests that Miss Todd should pay for her crimes. Enraged by Bob’s ingratitude, Miss Todd threatens to go to the police and leaves.

The story then reveals a bit of irony as Bob elopes with the maid, Laetitia, stealing Miss Todd’s car and portable belongings – thus a virtuous woman makes a thief of an honest man.

The role of Miss Todd is shared by Chantelle Grant and Katherine Scott while Curtis Clarke portrays Bob. The role of Miss Pinkerton, a neighbour of Miss Todd’s, is shared by Amy Zampiero and Aisha Talarico. The role of Laetitia is shared by Farah Hack and Jennifer Carter. Penelope Cookson is the stage director and Angus Kellett is the pianist and musical director.

These productions will be held at McLaughlin Performance Hall, 050 McLaughlin College. Admission is $15 and tickets are available at the door.

The performances are the culmination of a seven-week intensive training program for professional singers, featuring master classes by such luminaries as internationally acclaimed vocalists Catherine Robbin, Norma Burrowes and Russell Braun, Opera Atelier’s Marshall Pynkoski, vocal coach and CBC radio personality Stuart Hamilton and actor/director Michael Connolly. For more details see the July 13 & July 14 issues of YFile. For information about the Summer Opera Program, call the Department of Music at ext. 55186.

This story was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, communications, Faculty of Fine Arts.