The Victorian Parlour Ensemble, which gave a free lunchtime concert yesterday at Lisner Auditorium, has a self-imposed mission to restore to its "middlebrow" stature the music of that frivolous, tuneful language called Operetta. Furthering the cause, singers Debra Lawrence, Micaele Sparacino and Darryl Winston and pianist Jane McCartin brought to their small audience a program of American selections by Reginald de Koven, Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg.
While each singer showed positive qualities, probably the campaign will have to rely ultimately on more capable lobbyists. Tenor Sparacino, who had the most winning approach to the style and who performed with the most passion, offered only pinched sounds at the top. Basso Winston also has a restricted voice that makes singing authoritatively through most of his range all but impossible. Soprano Lawrence sounded especially fine next to the other two, but she could have been much more expressive and careful with her words (in one Herbert aria, for instance, there was virtually no difference between "pressed" and "breast").
The banter the group provided between the numbers would have been more entertaining in someone's living room and only further amplified a similarity between this event and the kind of unrehearsed singing one might find around a bar piano. The accompanist, unlike the singers, apparently did not find any sweetness in this music at all and prevented a final general assessment that, despite the lack of expertise, this group's unchecked enthusiasm won the day.