Almost all 188 seats of the deMille Theatre, located on the campus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, were filled on the afternoon of March 30. There, the Undergraduate Opera Workshop, a part of the School of Music, presented an abridged version of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers or The King of Barataria, directed by Steven LaCosse and conducted by John McKeever. I had previously only heard of this show and was excited to see it performed.
For the first act, the stage was plainly set with two large black boxes, a fake tree, and the piano (the first act was accompanied by Beth Grimmett-Tankersley and the second, by Mary Ann Bills). The show began with two gondoliers, Marco (Anthony Zanghi) and Giuseppe (Cameron Jackson), wooing Gianetta (Sarah Hausmann) and Tessa (Catherine Clark). Jackson has a rich baritone voice that filled the theatre easily. Zanghi, a quiet tenor, was often overpowered by Jackson and was often difficult to hear. I enjoyed Hausmann's bright, high notes. My favorite of the quartet, however, was Clark, who has a beautiful mezzo-soprano sound that I wanted to hear more of. I was very pleased in the second act when she had a solo aria.
The second scene brought the Duke of Plaza-Toro, his wife the Duchess of Plaza-Toro, their daughter Casilda, and the Duke's attendant Luiz to the stage. Though they were from Spain, they interestingly had English accents. The Duke, played by Kelly DeLameter, was portrayed very exuberantly, and his wife, played by Alden Pridgen in the first act and Kate Sorrells in the second, was rather shrew-like. While the Duke was wonderfully comic, Daren Jackson, who played the Grand Inquisitor, stole the show. His excessively flamboyant gestures and manner of speaking were so over the top that one could not help but laugh whenever he was on stage. The chemistry between Casilda (Lurline Richardson) and Luiz (Charlie Kluttz), the star-crossed lovers, was tangible whenever they were on stage together. They did a wonderful job hiding the chemistry when the Duke and Duchess were onstage with them but brought it out full force when called for.
DeLameter, Pridgen, and Sorrells were all strong singers, and they sounded very good together. Even though no one had microphones, their voices carried easily throughout the theater and blended well. Richardson and Kluttz stole the show vocally; Richardson had a beautiful soaring soprano sound with wonderful, rich vibrato and Kluttz was a strong, lovely tenor. They sang very well together.
In the last scene of the first act there were a few blocking mistakes when the gondoliers and their new wives took the stage, and some vocal lines were dropped. They handled it very professionally and continued on to finish the act strong.
The second act went off without a hitch. I was still hoping to hear more from Zanghi, as he was still overpowered by Cameron Jackson, but that is really my only complaint. The show was very enjoyable and comical, as Gilbert and Sullivan shows tend to be, and was portrayed brilliantly. We can expect much from these rising performers.