When it comes to opera, you can have something new or something old but is there any reason why you cannot have both at the same time. Francesca Zambello, the Artistic and General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival will tell you that you can have both and that is what she has done. Tenor Overboard is a classic comedy by Ken Ludwig. Two women dress up as men and go on board a ship as members of the all-male Sicilian Singers group. Yes, you may think of the movie Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
The comedy is fine but The Glimmerglass Festival produces opera and we need some bubbly, melodically terrific music and lyrics to supplement to play. Call Giacomo Rossini. He provides the sung parts in the original Italian (well, mostly) while the comedy advances the silly plot in English.
Meet sisters Gianna (Reilly Nelson) and Mimi (Jasmine Habersham) in Little Italy, New York in the 1940s. They are on the run from their overstrict and overbearing father Petronio (Stefano de Peppo), and sneak on a ship heading for Sicily, disguised as Joe and Jerry and join The Singing Sicilians. The four-person group has only two members left, Luca (Armando Contreras) and Dante (Fran David Laucerica). Guess who loves whom? Not to hold you in suspense, the sisters’ father also boards the ship as does the movie star Angostura (Keely Futterer) and her agent Cedric (Gregory Feldmann). We also have a funny and fine-voiced Captain (Matthew Pearce). Broad comedy needs a selection of characters, you see and Ken Ludwig, knows how to provide them.
The four lovers, the overprotective father, the crazy actress, the abused agent and the bumbling Captain are a splendid collection of people for this type of comedy and the actors deserve nothing less than a standing ovation.
But this is a comic opera and we need arias, duets and ensemble pieces. Go for the best, Rossini. Ludwig’s collaborators scavenge through more than a dozen of Rossini’s works for appropriate pieces to “fit” the story line of the Tenor Overboard. They filch music and lyrics (when suitable) from familiar operas like The Barber of Seville, L’Italiana in Algeri, Cenerentola and La gazza ladra to less well-known operas like William Tell, Semiramide, La donna del lago and Tancredi.
We get high Cs on the high seas as Francesca Zambello told us.
Mezzo soprano Reilly Nelson playing Gianna and soprano Jasmine Habersham jump into pants roles with the expected hilarity and the delightful rendition of Rossini’s high notes. They are lovers and we love them.
Tenor Fran David Laucerica as Dante and baritone Armando Contreras as Luca are the other lovers and we want them to get together and all obstacles be damned. Both singers are members of Glimmerglass’s Young Artists Program and they displayed versatility, vocal agility and enthusiasm that made them a delight to watch and hear.
Soprano Keely Futterer gets the juicy role Angostura, the movie star who is allowed to overact and provide laughs. But she has a fine, ringing voice and is a member of the Young Artists Program with multiple opportunities for comic acting and excellent singing.
Baritone Gregory Feldmann was Futterer’s sidekick, the agent Cedric. He is also a member of the Young Artists Program and a rising star in his profession.
Bass-baritone Stefano de Peppo played Petronio, the foolish father, standing in the way of youth and love. He seems like an expert in handling such roles which are plentiful in opera buffa.
Tenor Matthew Pearce is the bumbling ship’s captain who when asked to perform a wedding ceremony starts reciting the funeral mass. A fine performance and a fine tenor voice. He too is a member of the Young Artists Program.
I mention the artists who come from the Young Artists Program to give due credit to The Glimmerglass Festival for promoting and training young artists, including an Assistant Conductor Robert Kahn and Assistant Director Nora Winsler. The production was co-directed for the fun of it by Francesca Zambello and Brenna Corner.
The sets were designed by James Noone and we get a street in New York in front of the YMCA, the interior of the Y and on board the brightly lit ship with its three smokestacks. Well done.
Joseph Colaneri conducted The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra at a spritely pace.
Tenor Overboard by Ken Ludwig (book) Giacomo Rossini will be performed seven times in repertory until August 18, 2022, at the Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, New York. www.glimmerglass.org