Any parent fearful that He-Man, Mr. T and MTV are taking over their child's existence should take a trip out to Wolf Trap's Children's Theater-in-the-Woods. Each day all summer long, young audiences are introduced to the delights of music, dance, puppetry, theater and opera.
Yes, opera. Saturday morning, members of the Wolf Trap Opera Company braved the awesome heat and humidity to perform Offenbach's one-act comic operetta "Fleurette" for a large crowd of kids and older folk. Though the performers sang and spoke in English rather than French, and the script was simplified and studded with references to Tom Selleck, congresswomen and breakfast at Roy Rogers, this was the real thing, and the audience's enthusiasm was gratifying to behold.
The production began with a charming introduction by music coach and accompanist Carol Palca. She defined the word "opera," outlined "Fleurette's" typically silly plot (Fleurette, top seamstress at Madame Flamboyante's, is kidnaped, locked in the king's cha teau by his old manservant Binet and ordered to alter a costume for the royal entertainment that evening; her trumpeter boyfriend Jolicoeur arrives, and all hell breaks loose). Palca then took her seat at the piano.
The opera, which took place on a makeshift stage littered with bolts of fabric, a huge papier-ma che' sewing machine and bird cages, was a spirited if uneven affair. Soprano Rachel Rosales played Fleurette as a good natured, all-American girl. Her singing was strong and at times beautiful, but her diction was muddy and her acting a trifle stiff.
The two men, who favored ridiculous French accents, fared far better. Allan Glassman portrayed Jolicoeur as a beefy joker, using his big baritone voice to great comic effect. Darren Keith Woods' Binet was no less inspired: a wizened lecher, he bumbled and stumbled with aplomb.