At Clarice Smith Center, It's Fun, Fun, Fun With Cimarosa

The setting for the rollicking
The setting for the rollicking "Il Matrimonio Segreto" is moved forward about 200 years in the excellent Maryland Opera Studio production. (By Laura Mertens)
Monday, April 24, 2006

Domenico Cimarosa's "Il Matrimonio Segreto" ("The Secret Marriage"), which received a rare performance at the Clarice Smith Center on Friday night, is pure comedy. It's something straight out of opera buffa tradition that strives for entertainment more than profundity. It speaks in contagious tunes, hopelessly hapless characters and zany antics.

The Maryland Opera Studio's week-long run is a rollicking affair. The story follows the plight of the young couple Carolina and Paolino, whose scheme to gain acceptance for their secret nuptials goes terribly awry. No need for anything too outre here. Director Nick Olcott seems to understand that a little updating (Daniel Conway's sets place the story poolside at a 1960s Italian villa) and a couple of new twists (a spryly dancing chorus choreographed by Autumn Mist Belk) can unleash all of the opera's potential.

Costume designer Tim Burrow dresses the players in bright colors and busy patterns, while a cast of non-singing actors enlivens both acts.

Jeffrey Watson pulled double duty, providing airy accompaniment from the white piano onstage and playing the funny silent bartender whose facial expressions comment on the action as much as the libretto.

The strong cast of graduate student performers was like an energizing tonic. Soprano Brooke Evers nicely filled the role of Carolina, singing with purity and character. Tanner Knight's Paolino was determined and ardent, while Darren Perry gave a full-bodied portrayal of the father Geronimo. Kari Marie Sorenson and Jennifer Mathews sang excellently as the jealous sister Elisetta and the involved aunt Fidalma. Kyle Hastings's Count Robinson was passionate, endlessly conniving and musical.

Conductor Ryan Brown elicited a supple sound from the University of Maryland Orchestra, which played with the precision and vigor that have become hallmarks of its recent concerts. There are four more performances through next Sunday; visit http://claricesmithcenter.umd.edu or call 301-405-ARTS.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

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