His librettist, Domenico Gilardoni, adapted the libretto from two plays by Antonio Simone Sografi. In 1827, Donizetti and Gilardoni originally based a one-act farce on Le convenienze teatrali for the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. Revising it for performance at the Teatro alla Cannobiana in Milan in 1831, they expanded the work to two acts by adding recitatives and other material based on Le inconvenienze teatrali.
Not many opera composers have been able to write both comedy and tragedy successfully. Donizetti was one of the few. He embodied his musical jokes in his imitations of music by Rossini, Bellini, and Mozart. His Rossini-inspired passages got faster and louder while his faux Bellini melodies were stretched to almost impossible lengths. Donizetti wrote such convincing music in Mozart’s style that people often wonder which opera he took it from.
Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, or Viva la Mamma, is supposed to take place in a provincial theater. For the Pacific Opera Project (POP) presentation on November 19, 2015, the intimate table settings of the Highland Park Ebell Club provided the correct sized hall but not the provincial atmosphere. Ebell was the perfect hall for a modern version Donizetti comedy updated by Josh Shaw, POP’s director, scenic designer, and supertitles translator.
As Mamma, baritone Ryan Thorn was the star of the show with far more forceful diva antics than any leading soprano would dare. Thorn had a stentorian baritone voice and a charismatic presence that gave him control of the stage and everyone on it. No mere artist was going to upstage this theatrical “mamma” and from the black and blue marks on her daughter, the audience knew she did not accept defeat often at home. Soprano Amy Lawrence who exhibited strong, well placed high notes was Mamma’s long suffering daughter, Luigia Castragatti, (cat castrator). Perhaps we will hear more of her in the future.
Sung by Katherine Giaquinto, Prima Donna Daria Garbinati sings beautifully, but this character has florid coloratura where her brain should be. When her husband, baritone Don Procolo, sung by Carl King, trys to plead her cause, he only causes more friction. Eventually the Don has to replace the foreign born tenor, Guglielmo Hollerachevogelf‰nger-Lopez (Revengeofhellbirdcatcher-Lopez) who was portrayed with great enthusiasm by Kyle Patterson.
While Maestro Stephen Karr was actually conducting the orchestra, bass-baritone Scott Levin was playing the part of Conductor Biscroma Strappaviscere (bowel ripper) on stage. Thus two conductors were working within sight of each other. Phil Mayer was a business like Impressario, Eleen Hsu-Wentlandt an amusing Pippetto and Matthew Welch gave a sparkling account of librettist Salsapariglia’s lines. With Viva La Mamma, Pacific Opera Project ended its 2015 season in a blaze of glory.
Cast and production information:
Mamma Agata, Ryan Thorn; The Prima donna, Katherine Giaquinto; Biscroma Strappaviscere, Scott Levin; Don Procolo, Carl King; Luigia Castragatti, Amy Lawrence; The Impresario, Phil Mayer; Cesare Salsapariglia, Matthew Welch; Guglielmo Hollerachevogelf‰nger-Lopez, Kyle Patterson; Pippetto, Eileen Hsu-Wendtland; Conductor, Stephen Karr; Director, Scenic Designer and Supertitles Translator, Josh Shaw; Costume Designer, Maggie Green.
product_title=Viva la Mamma!: A Fun Evening at POP
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: Viva la mamma! [Photo courtesy of Pacific Opera Project]