|Opera Philadelphia's sparkling production of The Love for Three Oranges
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Sep 27, 2019 10:30am | comments
Opera Philadelphia is now presenting the rarely-heard Prokofiev work, The Love for Three Oranges at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia for only a few performances.
Make no mistake, “rarely-heard” should not be associated with “awful” or “justly neglected.” This wonderful production from Maggio Musicale Fiorentino sparkles with wit and elan. Boasting a cast of bright, young talents, a crisp orchestra smartly led, Terrific, witty production values, and a snappy, fun English translation by David Lloyd-Jones with English supertitles, it is a clear winner.
Sergei Prokofiev (April 23, 1891- March 5, 1953) is not exactly a household name here in the States, although you have probably heard his music many times. His Romeo and Juliet is a favorite evening-long ballet in many dance companies’ repertoire. Not as well-known is his ballet, Cinderella. Occasionally, large opera houses present Prokofiev’s operatic masterpieces War and Peace, The Gambler, and The Fiery Angel. Symphony orchestras often also feature his works. The Love for Three Oranges was premiered in 1921 at the Chicago Opera. Subsequent appearances hereabouts have been few and far between. New York City Opera performed it decades ago, so an English translation of it is especially welcomed here in Philadelphia. The Love for Three Oranges is often presented in French or Russian, so we have much more fun hearing and seeing the supertitles in a language quickly recognizable. Bravos go to Opera Philadelphia for presenting an edgy, off-the-beaten-track work, and doing a marvelous job of it to boot.
The Love for Three Oranges features a bit of everything. Philosophical arguments between a chorus extolling either comedy or drama enlivens the fairy-tale center of the opera. It is this chorus which has giant, flag-waving moments straight out of Les Miserables. Even marching suffragettes get to wave 30-foot flags. The basic story involves an unhappy prince who has never laughed. When he finally does, it is at an evil witch’s expense, thereby earning the prince a curse. He then searches to rid himself of the curse, and thereby hangs the tale of The Love for Three Oranges. Leading the cast is Jonathan Johnson as the handsome prince. His is a beautiful tenor, clear of diction and warm of tone. He hasn’t the slightest difficulty capering about or looking handsome. Zachary James as the evil demon who guards the Oranges was a clear audience favorite. A clear and true bass, he delivered his menacing lines as a killer demon all while dressed in travesty while wearing an enormous, chicken-body costume, while waving a 30-foot killer ladle. That’s multi-tasking. Ben Wager cut a dashing figure as another demon with a metal fan strapped to his chest who flew the prince and the prince’s fool Truffaldino (expertly played by a fine Barry Banks) to what appeared to be displayed on the onstage map to be Palm Springs, California. Over a dozen major roles were cast from strength. This included the artists Scott Connor, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Amanda Lynn Bottoms, and Tiffany Townsend. Maestro Corrado Rovaris led his orchestra expertly.
Media royalty were spotted in the audience this night: the estimable doyens of fashion and style Mickey Boardman with friend Michael Musto. How gay is that?
The Love for Three Oranges appears only on September 20, 22, 27, and 29, so hurry to get your tickets for an unforgettably joyful evening. Also playing is Semele, onstage at the intimate Perelman Theater September 19, 21, 24, 26, and 28. Verdi’s Requiem and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly will be presented in spring 2020. For information, visit www.operaphila.org .