A lovely spring afternoon in the tree house setting of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula provided the backdrop for “An Afternoon of Opera and Musical Theatre.” The convergence of four immensely talented musicians definitely was a match made in musical heaven. The sell-out audience was more than thoroughly impressed, entertained and delighted. It’s one thing to inhabit a character in an opera or music production when there is time to develop the personality and quite another to provide glimpses of personality in a variety of selections. Local audiences are familiar with the talents of David Gordon, Lucy Faridany and Peter Tuff and were thrilled with the introduction of Morgan Harrington. Together these artists gave a seamlessly entertaining afternoon.
In his inimitable way, David Gordon narrated the background with insight and humor involved in the various scenes. The opening duet was a wonderfully frivolous scene from The Marriage of Figaro, Cinque…dieci with Susanna busily and coyly decorating a hat while Figaro measures their new apartment. This established what a treat this afternoon would provide. The natural quality of Tuff’s and Harrington’s voices together would have the audience believe that their singing together was an everyday occurrence. While this is a first time collaboration for them, the flow and personality interplay was most convincing.
Other Mozart in the first half included La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni with Harrington turning from clueless peasant to aggressor to Don Juan’s sweet talk. Opening the second half had Tuff as the Count from The Marriage of Figaro and Harrington being a convincing flirt. Tuff followed this becoming Figaro again in Aprite un po’ quegli occhi ridiculously proclaiming that it’s insane to trust women.
Harrington’s vocal prowess in the first half, “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss” from Franz Lehar’s Giuditta more than convinced the audience of her “irresistible magic” with “My lips, they kiss with such fire.” Her wonderfully expressive face and huge vocal talent belied her small stature. In the second half she easily portrayed Mimi from Puccini’s La Boheme in Donde lieta usci leaving Rudolfo with a “goodbye, without hard feelings.” This heart wrenching emotion was sublimely portrayed. Other solo turns included “So In Love with you am I” from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate with Harrington giving credence to the love/hate relationship with her ex-husband. “Vanilla Ice Cream” from Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me was a lovely confection of the emotion of discovery of deeper feelings.
Tuff’s turn as Escamillo in “Toreador Song” from Bizet’s Carmen displayed all the strength of voice and ego to convincing effect. A personality about turn in Richard Wagner’s O du mein holder Abendstern from Tannhäuser conveys the tender emotion of entreating the evening star to watch over his beloved friend who is dying. And yet another switch to the title song “She Loves Me’ from Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me. The consummate professional shone through in a bit of unscheduled vocal choreography at the opening quickly recovering to humorous and delightful effect. Another Lehar duet, Lippen schweigenfrom Die Lustige Witwe was the official end of the program portraying all the tenderness of the well-known and beloved waltz of love.
Then, as if the amazing variety of selections presented was not enough to satisfy, two more musical jewels completed the afternoon. The Papageno/Papagena duet from Mozart’s Magic Flute at a terrifically brisk tempo again brought down the house. “All I Ask of You” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera amply displayed the emotion between Raoul and Christine.
Underlying this entire presentation was the consummate piano artistry of Lucy Faridany. Her talent makes it look so easy for the singers. While the singers were so ably changing personalities and vocal calisthenics, the underpinning never faltered in the demands of the variety of pianistic styles. This truly was an ensemble presentation. Sometimes the stars align to bring forces together to make an exceptional presentation and this afternoon soared!