Monday, August 22, 2005

Herman's Hermits

Three things you won't find at a Herman's Hermits concert, circa 2005: (1) incisive critiques of global conflict, (2) more than a few audience members who need to be carded, and (3) rap.

Then again, that last one might not be out of the question, given that Friday at the Birchmere, the uncannily well-preserved Peter "Herman" Noone offered impersonations of Johnny Cash, Davy Jones, Tom Jones, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, among others. (Surprisingly, he was most impressive as the Man in Black.) And his curiously anonymous band mates, none of whom were part of the '60s British Invasion pop combo, were only too happy to play Hermits, with efficient renditions of "Dandy," "No Milk Today," "I'm Into Something Good," and other Hermit and non-Hermit hits.

Noone's voice was a little too robust for the more ethereal numbers, and his attempt at "Battle of New Orleans" featured some ill-advised hoedowning, but the 57-year-old Noone's pelvic thrusts on "It's Not Unusual" might have startled Elvis. And his comedy was arguably more entertaining than his music -- on his first sight of the Birchmere's neighborhood: "Let's get the check now, lads -- because we can cash it right across the street!" Best of all was when he combined them: Brandishing an old LP with his profile on it, he declared, "Look at the size of that Peter!" and then, holding the near-life-size portrait above his shoulders, trotted through "Leaning on a Lamp Post."

Add in the British elocution lessons he offered the crowd before the concluding medley of hits ("It sounds like about 3,000 Camillas"), and the transformation of the Birchmere into a British pub on singalong night was well-nigh complete.

-- Pamela Murray Winters

'La Cenerentola'

Except for the lack of scenery, the performance of Rossini's "La Cenerentola" was exemplary Saturday night at Wolf Trap. Scenery is nice but not important in this opera, which is about human relations, not architecture or decor. The concert performance, ably directed by Garnett Bruce, had makeup and costumes and lots of spectacular acting and singing.

"Cenerentola" is a rational version of the Cinderella story; no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach or glass slippers -- just the story of a sweet, intelligent girl in a hilariously dysfunctional family who makes all the right decisions (unlike her silly stepsisters) when confronted with a choice between glamour and solid worth. The music, well controlled by conductor Dean Williamson, ranks with Rossini's finest.

The best of many good performances in this "Cenerentola" was that of Kate Lindsey, a spectacularly talented mezzo-soprano, in the title role. From the early "Una volta c'era un re" to the final "Non piu mesta," Rossini made constant demands in this role, and she fulfilled them splendidly with a charming stage presence and a voice that was precise, agile and expressive throughout its wide range.

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