Correction to This Article
A May 22 Style review incorrectly listed James Weaver as a baritone in a Cathedral Choral Society performance of "Serenade to Music." The singer was Jon Bruno.

PERFORMING ARTS

The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, consisting mostly of National Symphony Orchestra players, performed Sunday at the Washington Memorial in Alexandria.
The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, consisting mostly of National Symphony Orchestra players, performed Sunday at the Washington Memorial in Alexandria. (Eclipse Chamber Orchestra)
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Eclipse Chamber Orchestra

Soprano Emily Pulley, narrator Rich Kleinfeldt and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra under conductor Sylvia Alimena gave a superb performance Sunday of composer Mark Adamo's "Late Victorians" at Alexandria's George Washington Masonic Memorial. The piece was commissioned for the orchestra's inaugural season in 1991-92.

Reminding me of Arnold Schoenberg's expressionist monodrama "Erwartung" (1909), Adamo's work is essentially a captivating chamber opera (though labeled "Symphony"). It unfolds in a series of episodes interspersing arias (extracted from Emily Dickinson's poetry) with spoken and orchestral sections. In the arias, Pulley gave her role every ounce of its emotional journey from despair to reconciliation in a stunning performance. Between the songs, Kleinfeldt narrated the tragic story of an AIDS victim's suffering and death. Made up mostly of National Symphony Orchestra members (including Alimena), the Eclipse orchestra gave a powerful account of the drama, one dotted with instrumental solos played with beauty and conviction.

The remaining performances deserve equal praise. Violinists Jane Bowyer Stewart and Paula Akbar were the elegant soloists in Antonio Vivaldi's throbbing Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 3, No. 11. And the instrumental solos in Ottorino Respighi's warhorse "Gli Uccelli" ("The Birds") were rapturous. "Musetta's Waltz" from Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme" proved oddly interruptive though nicely rendered by Pulley.

-- Cecelia Porter

Opera Theatre Of Northern Virginia

Think of a really funny musical comedy, with pratfalls, plots and counterplots, doddering servants and fast-paced ensemble numbers in which everyone goes off on a different tangent. It tells a well-worn story: Young lovers, kept apart by an unreasonable old man who thinks himself sprightlier than he is, get their revenge and are eventually united. It's in English, and is a sort of reverse "Taming of the Shrew," with a pleasant young woman turning witchy -- call it "The Shrewing of the Tame."

Or just call it "Don Pasquale," as performed Sunday by Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre, in Arlington. The music of Donizetti's 1843 opera looks back to Mozart while moving with some of the clockwork precision that Gilbert and Sullivan later perfected. Under Artistic Director John Edward Niles's sure hand, this production was all fun, all the time -- though the nine-member chamber group he conducted was thin for this music.

As Pasquale, Lewis Freeman combined a strong, solid baritone with fine vocal and physical acting. John Dooley was smoothly urbane as the manipulative Malatesta, hatcher of the plot to bring Pasquale down a notch or three.

Katherine Osborne was charming as Norina, although her sweet, clear soprano became a little screechy at the top. Keith Hudspeth as her lover, Ernesto, was passionate but often strained, his voice too breathy and rather thin. Loren Smith, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, was a scene stealer as a silent, slowly shuffling factotum. Everyone else constantly raced hither and thither -- and will do so again tomorrow at 8 p.m.

-- Mark J. Estren


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