Light opera ensemble seeks a musical niche.
–Rockford Operetta Party presented a concert of Edwardian Light Opera works Thursday evening at First Presbyterian Church of Winnebago.
–Directed by Scott Farrell, the ensemble of nine singers, oboist and pianist was conducted by Steve Lilja in a program to highlight three pieces in the theme of “Sunsets and Edelweiss.”
–The status of this company might be coined “upstart” because it has continued to reinvent itself, according to Farrell, since 1999. Along the way have been some fits and starts in an effort to establish a specialized musical genre in the Rockford area.
–His light opera emphasis attempts to develop an audience that appreciates music and stories about life on the lighter side in a somewhat farcical mood. The songs are melodramatic in nature and even silly at times as if mocking seriousness, according to Farrell. If a storyline is somber, there is yet an upbeat 6/8 meter sung by villagers in a folksy mood.
–This revival remembered a time sandwiched neatly between the Victorian Age and America’s beloved affair with musicals in the musical era King Edward VII early in the 20th century. Recorded music was yet to be, so lively and live was the style of operettas.
–Farrell was sometimes pianist, sometimes vocalist and sometimes narrator to present the pieces, “A Welsh Sunset,” “Two Merry Monarchs” and “The Mountaineers.” It was Reader’s Theatre format as characters of love and war sang the charming stories. The cast included Erica Reed, Giovanni Grimaudo, Vicki Marcum, Kelly Beaman, Kurt Schoening, Lorie Weinrich, Sue Lewis and oboist Michael Carlyle.
–In “A Welsh Sunset,” soprano Reed as failing Jenny Jones was fittingly melodramatic and starry-eyed in love as she faded into her lover’s arms, sickly and dying while he promised great things in her life. Grimaudo as Griffith David was a fit and strong character, though seemed a bit out of his element at times with demanding higher ranges.
–Also notable was soprano Lorie Weinrich whose vibratos and sweet-faced presence performed a convincing typecast of femme fatale innocence in “Sleep Song” in “The Mountaineers” and “Since the World Began” in “Two Merry Monarchs.”
–In this production, there were some awkward glitches here and there to disturb the overall arc of presentation. A slide as multi-media scenery was ineffective, especially in a venue of no lighting effects. The church itself, while acoustically satisfying and intimate, was somewhat clumsy as a theatrical setting with unwieldy pauses, entrances and exits.
–Moreover, Farrell’s multi-tasking as pianist/narrator/vocalist was a bit distracting, especially with the addition of computerized piano accompaniment because, by his own admission, the piece was above his technical ability. With effort and enthusiasm a given, however, the ensemble will find its way.