The Opera Theater of Washington, a small professional company that was started a year ago by music director Doris Mattingly, is in residence at American University. Drawing on talent from the Washington area, the company performs operas in chamber settings and assorted scenes for all sorts of occasions.
Yesterday the company presented a "Holiday Music Feast" for a small but appreciative audience at Annunciation Hall. The feast came in several operatic courses with some songs, arias and carols for desert. The appetizer was a short work by Alexander Tcherepnin called "The Nymph and the Farmer," a Chinese fairy tale pleasantly sung by tenor Scott Mattingly and soprano Kathryn Evans and beautifully narrated by Doris Mattingly. The late composer's wife was in the audience.
The opening of the fourth act of Puccini's "La Bohe me" was the next tidbit and offered an outstanding performance by baritone Henry Burroughs, who is really the company's star. For the main course, there was a nice reading of the sandman scene from Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," and Burroughs and soprano Sarah Agler ended the afternoon with assorted songs.
There were many attractive aspects of the Opera Theater's presentation. The singers are mostly good. The simple costumes and the flexible sets (painted on small portable screens) do their jobs. The modest staging has been well thought out, and every aspect of the production is to the same scale.
Doris Mattingly has done a nice job as musical director, but as a pianist she does not have the technical equipment to do justice to the company as surrogate orchestra.