A Fresh Look at Several Classics
by John W. Lambert
February 8, 2009, Raleigh, NC: It was sort of like old times when, for its big event of the year, the Triangle Youth Philharmonic – well, 25 members of it, anyway, performing as the Triangle Youth Philharmonic Baroque Ensemble – returned to the auditorium of Athens Drive High School, where the sponsoring organization’s several orchestras used to play, often.
Just how big this program was to be we’d begun to realize at the TYP’s previous concert, large portions of which were devoted to music that was heard in its final, jewel-like settings, on the present occasion.
The participants were not limited to a chamber orchestra at the lip of the stage, presided over by Artistic Director Hugh Partridge. No, there was a large cast of characters, on and off the stage, for this gala concert presentation of what was billed as a “comic opera-serenata in one act” and titled Don Quixote at the Wedding of Comacho. The story is from Cervantes’ magnum opus, and the tale is familiar from several theatrical settings, the best known of which is Minkus’ Kitri’s Wedding, of which memorable performances and a telecast by American Ballet Theatre surely linger in the minds of dance enthusiasts of a certain age. (The tale, once the scene-setting is done, is of an arranged marriage that is upset by true love, abetted by cleverness.) Here, however, the music was by Telemann, not always revered for elegance or wit. The scores – a suite and then an opera of sorts (although “masque” is probably a better term for it) - were found by the conductor himself, at UNC. Come to find out, the suite is not based on the music of the opera, but no matter. Thanks to a grant from the NEA and matches from local funding agencies, the suite and the opera were cobbled together – with exceptional effectiveness – and performed on a beautiful mid-winter afternoon by a strong septet of young vocalists, dancers from the Raleigh Dance Theatre, and 28 singers from the Enloe Chamber Choir. This was a fully-staged and choreographed production that flowed effortlessly, seamlessly, from one scene to the next, facilitated by English supertitles that flowed seamlessly, too (which is not always the case in fully professional undertakings!).
The young soloists – all from Enloe High School - were led by Andrew Way, as Don Quixote, and Daniel Cryer, as Sancho. (Their animals were played by Sabrina Karr and Ruben Suarez, respectively.) The ladies rivaled the gentlemen in terms of vocal proficiency; Mara Howard-Williams was Grisostoma, Laura Buff, Pedrilla, and Arlie Honeycutt, Quiteria. Rounding out the solo vocal ensemble was Patrick Cyzewski as Comacho and Peter O’Neal as Basilio.
There was double and triple casting among the dancers. The windmills were danced by Moria Glady, Megan Andrews, Katie McNeirney, Abby Paulson, Maddie Rossie, and Karsey Long. The shepherdesses were Christine Brown, Charlotte Kelley, Michelle Lacks, and Karsey Long and Katie McNeirney (again). Dulcinea was Leah Cauley, and her attendants were Rachel Palmer, four of the shepherdesses, and one of the windmill dancers. The choreographer and director of the RDT is Mary LeGere.
The chorus, from Enloe High School, was prepared by Ann Johnson-Huff and directed for this production by Alfred E. Sturgis, of the NC Master Chorale. Robert Galbraith, till recently the head of the Opera Company of North Carolina, was the stage director. Lighting was by John L. Thomas, and the costumes were by David Serxner and Nina Jonson.
The concertmaster was Victoria Pedroza, but truth to tell it would be worth citing all the instrumentalists, so excellent was the ensemble - and all the choristers, too. We know they know their efforts were appreciated, for the place was packed, and at the end there was a standing ovation that lasted many minutes. It was not your typical S.O. for a youth program, either. This was one of the finest stage productions with music this old writer has seen and heard here in years and years. The pros could have learned much from observing how these wonderfully gifted and talented young people – they represent the future of the art forms we all profess to serve! – and their many mentors worked together to achieve this exquisitely polished, sometimes moving, and always entertaining afternoon show. Well done!
(And, in fact, even the music was o.k.! Telemann, sage readers will doubtless know, was one of those music-by-the-square-yard guys, but this music was among the most inspired and inspiring from his pen that this listener has ever heard.)
Catch the spring concerts by the TYP in May – we’ll have details in our calendar, closer to those dates. The bar is set exceptionally high now, thanks to this production. It’s a good bet that these young artists will be up to the next tasks that await them!