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a Opera
by Kirke Mechem

COMPANY : Capitol City Opera Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Oglethorpe University-Lupton Hall Auditorium [WEBSITE]
ID# 3815

SHOWING : September 10, 2010 - September 12, 2010



This newly staged production of the classic tale is a feast for the senses! Orgon and his mother have fallen under the influence of the devious Tartuffe, but the rest of the family is not so taken. The stakes are raised when Orgon announces he will marry Tartuffe to his daughter Marianne. Plans are made to expose Tartuffe for the fraud he is, but the clever villain has more than one trick up his sleeve, and soon has control of all of Orgon's worldly possessions. Premiered in 1980, this opera with music and libretto by American composer Kirke Mechem was an instant hit. Opera Now (London) called the work "a delight, a deft, glimmering, witty score" and praised Mechem's voice as "..a genuine flair for the theater and an acute understanding of comedy."

Lighting Designer Jessica Coale
Costume Designer Pam Cole
Production Coordinator Pete Cutter
Set Designer Pete Cutter
Make Up Designer Dusti Meeks
Wig Designer Dusti Meeks
Choreographer Pete Cutter
Conductor Michael Giel
Director Michael Nutter
Musical Direction Catherine Striplin
Technical Director Shane Latham
Keyboard Valerie Pool
Flipote Elizabeth Barsalou
Dorinne Amber Brooke
Damis Mark Diamond
Orgon John La Forge
Valere Nathan Munson
Madame Pernelle Laurie Swann
Tartuffe Wade Thomas
Marianne Kat Uhle
Elmire Heather Witt
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


by playgoer
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Capitol City Opera Company is putting on a terrific production of Kirke Mechem's three-act opera, "Tartuffe," based on Molière's classic comedy. The libretto is in understandable English, distilling Moliere's plot to make room for the music. The music is wonderfully sung by a cast of eight (plus one non-verbal role that makes an impression at the start and end of the opera). All the elements of the production are first rate, and the musical and design teams took curtain calls with the cast on opening night, in a fitting tribute to the fine work all around.

The set is an elegant, symmetrical room with twin sets of stairs and a harlequinesque diamond motif. It stands in quite well for the home of a rich 17th century Frenchman. Period costumes are sumptuous, mostly in brightly-colored, satiny fabrics. The seemingly pious Tartuffe, of course, wears something darker and drabber. On his head is a form-fitting black cap, in contrast to the ridiculously big, festooned wigs of the upper class residents of the home. It's a visually stunning production, well if simply lit. The blocking of director Michael Nutter ensures that the visual treats are scattered across the stage, with the highlight being the sight of two women crawling up and then drooping down the twin staircases in mirrored grief (the saucy servant Dorine mocking her lovestruck mistress Marianne).

Amber Brooke, as Dorine, sparks the first act of the opera, mocking her master Orgon for his blind devotion to Tartuffe and acting as the glue that binds together Orgon's daughter Marianne with her fiancé Valère. While Ms. Brooke's voice isn't as resonant as the voices of the rest of the cast, she makes up for it in sparkling stage presence. Nathan Munson, as Valère, and Kat Uhle, as Marianne, both have glorious voices I could sit and listen to for hours. They seemed a bit constrained in their acting as the standard-issue romantic leads, but cut up and showed a delightfully comedic side in their disguises of act three.

The master of the house, played by John LaForge, is an imposing physical presence with the voice to match. His mother, played by Laurie Swann, is nearly as imposing, making the most of her limited time on stage, at the beginning and conclusion of the opera. Heather Witt, plays the mistress of the house, Elmire, portraying Orgon's second spouse as a beautiful trophy wife given to exaggerated, stereotypical poses that are a hoot to see. Mark Diamond, playing her stepson Damis, brings a powerful baritone voice and palpable passion to his role as the dissatisfied son of Orgon.

The character of Tartuffe does not appear until the second act, although his slippery, hypocritical character has been given quite a build-up in act one. Wade Thomas does not disappoint when he arrives. His voice is as pleasant to hear as anyone's, and he adds a sly comic touch to the proceedings. A few hisses greeted him at curtain call, since he plays a deliciously evil-tinged character, but it was all in the fun of the proceedings. The applause for him was as enthusiastic as for anyone.

In opera casting, the voice often takes precedence over physical type. Here, a little height advantage of Marianne over her fiancé Valère is the most notable lapse of traditional casting. Aging make-up works for the characters played by younger actors. And in the whimsical world of this opera, with oversized pearls and rings adorning Marianne, nothing too true to life is called for. Everything is heightened, brighter than life, and thrilling to the ear.

The score, while not overly tuneful to this musical comedy lover, carries the action along, although often at paces a tad slower than I would have wished. I was a bit startled in the middle of Marianne and Valère's duet when I realized that it was the first time the music was carrying me along at the pace I wanted. From then on, I was carried along on the music and action to the delightful dénouement of the opera. "Tartuffe" is a visual and aural treat. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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