Editor’s Note: This is part two of a series on three operas that take the same stage and bring together overlapping performers as part of a suite at The Clarice titled “Crime and Punishment.”
Gioacchino Rossini is undeniably among the greatest opera composers, and L’occasione fa il ladro is a quality example of his Italian works. It is an example of the commedia dell’arte genre, which played simple, satirical stories with politically-minded themes.
In L’occasione, a funny tale of identity theft and love unfolds on stage. In a roadside inn, a phony, common adventurer swaps luggage with a good-hearted, wealthy count who is pursuing his promised bride in Naples.
A mysterious female portrait; the tricks played by the betrothed Berenice and her friend Ernestina, and the utter confusion that ensues on the part of Bernice’s father combine to create a true imbroglio of imperceptions that entertain all the while. Berenice pretends to be a maid – an effect only demonstrated by a doily-like apron.
This production has a relatively small orchestra. The string section left a bit to be desired. The woodwinds do a good job with their complex phrasing.
The set is simple in aesthetics but complex in construction: it perfectly transmutes itself to whatever the stories of the operas dictate and spins between scenes to suggest motion in the plot. The second set, for the Villa, is too tall, but may be a stylistic technique or a physical constraint.
Robert Croghan’s costumes, like the setting, suggest an era but do not explicitly define one. The costumes do a good job making it clear the Count has substantial wealth. The lighting, by Alberto Segarra, was clever, but often too dim in essential locations.
Bass Ethan Lee Greene, as Don Parmenione, acts as stilted as his role necessitates. His voice is deep and his pronunciation bellissimo, but his projection faltered at first, eventually filling in. He had the requisite vocal power to come out as the only audible voice in a cast-wide round toward the finale.
Baritone Gregory Voinier stars as Parmenione’s lackey, Martino, the comic relief. Voinier’s projection is often too quiet, but it improves with time. He communicates emotion well with his phrasing and – partly a function of the libretto itself – is able to steal every scene. In an opera of uncertainty, he knows exactly who he is throughout.
The two of them communicated their character’s special relationship very well – especially in an opening number round. Martino and the silent, nameless maid played by soprano Laynee Dell Woodward have good chemistry as they battle over the swapped trunks, stealing scenes they don’t even sing in.
Voinier handles his solo well, which surprisingly functions to unravel the ball of twine-esque plot.
Tenor Sammy Huh’s voice as Count Alberto is beautifully suited to love songs, but his expressions while singing need a little improvement.
The high five Count Alberto and Don Parmenione share after sealing their treacherous deal reinforces the fluid timeline and comedic nature, as well as the quality of Nick Olcott’s direction.
Tenor Alec Feiss, as the poor lineless innkeeper, communicates only through facial expressions, and in the trunk swap that sets off the plot, he expresses the innocent confusion well off to the side.
Soprano Suzanne Karpov, who plays Berenice, has a voice that is suitably melancholic, as is her expression. She projects like a dream. It seems she mastered the transition between worried bride-to-be and independent woman with the reins perfectly.
Her voice reaches where it needs to be. In the tough sequences composers always seem to test sopranos with minimal hesitation, something else that will resolve as Karpov’s opera career no doubt continues swimmingly.
When Karpov almost screams at the men on the highest loudest note, her voice comes to full force. When Don Parmenione covers his ears in only-half jest, his acting stands strong with Olcott’s direction.
The expressions that exude from Karpov’s brow, her eyes, her face and – most tryingly – her voice are a supremely calculated revelation. Because we express emotion by fluctuating tones, a luxury unavailable in tonally-determined opera, the ability to show it is amazing, especially considering how many of these performers do it well at such a young age.
The tonal determination may be why the dialogue seems forced at times.
Mezzo-soprano Loghan Bazan, who plays the title character in the Ravel opera, plays a main female role, as Ernestina. Her voice is breathier than Karpov’s, but she makes up for it with strong expression and flawless eyework. Additionally, this is presumably Bazan’s umpteenth performance of the week, so I don’t begrudge her a little passing raspiness.
In the finale, when Berenice and Ernestina seem to duel for loudest, highest note, each performer repeatedly retakes the title, improving upon one another and themselves. Their determination bespeaks an opera where the men make all the loud pronouncements, but the women hold all the power.
Tenor Logan Webber as Don Eusebio, Berenice’s uncle, has a face, costume and perplexed vocal diction that fit his perpetual bewilderment well. His voice has a slight lisp, which – whether it’s put on or otherwise – fits the role.
Rossini was truly a master of the opera, and the players, set and costumes presented here truly honor his work.
Evan Berkowitz is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.