A Very Model Of A G & S Performance

Deceptively Frothy Operettas From Chorale

February 22, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

With Handel's "Messiah" in December and Beethoven's Mass in C on tapthis spring, the Annapolis Chorale decided to lighten things up a bit in an interim concert Saturday evening at Maryland Hall.

And fora walk on the frothy side, who could provide better company than Gilbert and Sullivan?

Saturday's performance featured choruses and solos from many of the pair's greatest hits: "H.M.S. Pinafore," "The Mikado," "Pirates ofPenzance," "Iolanthe," and others.

A few highlights . . . er, lowlights . . . from the semi-musical legacy of P.D.Q. Bach rounded out the program.

With four personable, talented soloists along for theride, this Annapolis Chorale romp was great musical fun.

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are deceiving. They all sound so zippy that one might think the music can be performed with ease.

Wrong. First, a very nimble tongue is required to make the music speak, since the scores contain more syllables per square inch than just about any music ever written.

(Bartolo's aria in "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Largo al Factotum" from "The Barber of Seville" are notable exceptions.)

And the difficulties don't end there. Sir William Gilbert wasn't exactly Johannes Brahms when it comes to spinning out a musical phrase, but his melodic lines are often expansively beautiful and require serious vocal talent to do them justice.

Last, "bright and breezy" can be a tall order when a chorus of over 100, an orchestra and operatically trained soloists are all involved.

In short, it takes areal knack to do this stuff right. Believe me, it's mangled more often than not.

But Gilbert and Sullivan is a specialty of Ernest Green, the conductor of the Annapolis Chorale. As musical director of Baltimore's own G and S hothouse, the Young Victorian Players, Green isadmirably steeped in the style and tradition of these remarkable operettas.

That certainly showed in Saturday's concert, as everythingwas well chosen, nicely paced and energetically presented.

Meg Genovese's soprano is perfect for this music. Her voice is rich enough to handle the melodic flow but perky enough to bring offthe florid gymnastics that make the roles of Josephine and Mabel the endurance runs they are.

Gary Leard is another perfect fit -- an agile tenor who can pass as a baritone when necessary. His Gilbert and Sullivan delivery is enhanced by his ability to tap into the satirical silliness of these situations and bring out their humor while singing beautifully.

Mezzo Kathryn Arnold's contributions were lovely as well.

Bass Bill Caltrider's singing voice might have been a notch below the others in quality, but his patter songs were terrific fun.

The chorus was in good form, especially the tenors, who must have eaten their spinach prior to the performance, so hale and hearty did they soundall concert long.

May they retain this admirable energy and use it in good health

when they attempt to scale the heights of the "Gloria" in Beethoven's Mass in C.

Maestro Green's orchestra added a great deal to the concert, though I wish the players had been allowed totune during some of the conductor's monologues. Intonation became pretty gamy by the time intermission rolled around.

And of all the composers I've ever heard, P.D.Q. Bach is certainly one of them.

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