Performance offers respite

Operetta: Before beginning the magnificent performance of "H.M.S. Pinafore," the audience joined the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra in a stirring arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

September 27, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

J. Ernest Green had misgivings about going forward with performances of a light Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But Green, the music director of the Annapolis Chorale and Annapolis Chamber Orchestra's production of H.M.S. Pinafore, decided that the show must - or at least should - go on.

"The act of making music has given us all a brief respite and has shown us the power that music has to take us away, however briefly, from the uncertainty of daily life," Green said.

Before the concert-style version of the play began Saturday at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, Green conducted the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra in his stirring arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner," with the audience joining in singing. The national anthem was followed by J. S. Bach's "Air on G String."

Green then asked the audience for a moment of silence to reflect on recent events.

What followed was a delightful performance of music from H.M.S. Pinafore. The performance gathered zest and verve as orchestra members summoned a lightness of spirit to support the lovely sound of the chorus. The performance featured the magnificent fullness and increased dimension of the chorale's male chorus.

H.M.S. Pinafore - subtitled The Lass that Loved a Sailor - pokes fun at the snobbery in the rigid English class system.

The ship's captain is intent upon marrying off his lovely daughter Josephine to the Adm. Sir Joseph Porter in order to elevate his station. Meanwhile Little Buttercup, peddler of sundry merchandise, thwarts the captain's plot and Josephine finds love with humble sailor Ralph Rackstraw.

Green, who for the past 15 years has conducted the Young Victorian Theatre Company in Baltimore, made use of the talents of several Young Vic performers.

That troupe was well represented by Brendan J. Cooke, who seemed to relish playing the villain, deformed Dick Deadeye. Cooke, who grotesquely lurked about the stage, exhibited his lustrous baritone, one of the best male voices in the show.

Having sung leading roles in a number of opera companies, mezzo-soprano Shazy Hopfenberg, who made her debut with Young Vic last season, sang the role of Little Buttercup in the chorale's production. She exhibited a flair for comedy, a warm stage presence and impressive vocal power.

Dyana Neal, a disc jockey on a classical music radio station, has appeared with Young Vic and was in the chorale's Fiddler on the Roof last season. Saturday, Neal was seen as Cousin Hebe, a role she invested with lovely singing, warm wit and her notably stylish stage presence.

Christopher Douglas Rhodovi, with Young Vic for five seasons, played the boatswain on Saturday. Another Young Vic alumnus, James Rogers, was originally slated to play Sir Joseph and later switched to Captain Corcoran, a role that presented little difficulty for him.

Sara Elizabeth Stewart revealed a clear, resonant voice and appealing charm as Josephine. Playing hero Ralph Rackstraw was lyric tenor Jeremy Blossey, who easily handled every vocal challenge and had the requisite spunk and likability to play the part.

Most impressive was the sparkling performance of Thomas King as Sir Joseph Porter, a role he assumed on short notice.

At first slated to play Captain Corcoran, King played Sir Joseph Porter with comic flair, dancing with a zest that seemed to turn a small area of stage into a ballroom, and delivering the elaborate dialogue with expert comedic timing.

Randall Stewart sang the role of the carpenter well, enunciating each word clearly. In fact, every soloist had superb diction.

The same must be said of the entire chorale, whose diction was precise and always understandable. Once again, the full chorus exhibited their distinctive, bright signature sound.

At the end of the program, Green again turned to patriotic music.

He offered his arrangements of "America, the Beautiful" and "God Bless America," sung by the Annapolis Chorale, who carried the audience members singing along to new heights.

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