It’s a fallacy to think that community theater or community opera are necessarily altogether different from their larger and more polished brethren. Take the InSeries, which has been presenting professional, small-scale music theater of various forms for 30 seasons. Its latest double bill, which runs at the Gala Hispanic Theatre through June, is a pocket-scaled pairing of Stravinsky’s “L’histoire du soldat” (in the version for three instruments: violin, clarinet and piano) and Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” (with piano accompaniment).
But some of the audience members probably attend the Washington National Opera once in a while — and indeed, even some of the singers overlap. The role of Rinuccio, or Ricky, was taken by Jes
The InSeries probes the limits of theater, opera and community. Strictly speaking, it is not community theater, except in the sense that the company has developed a community of its own, thereby representing the kind of smaller-scale event essential to the fabric of a city’s musical life.
Strictly speaking, “L’histoire du soldat” is not an opera, either, as the company’s energetic founder, Carla H
Both works, “Soldat” and “Schicchi” (pronounced SKEE-ky), have to do with the wages of a questionably lived life; where Stravinsky’s soldier sells his soul to the devil and then reclaims it (or does he?), the title character in “Schicchi” dupes a family by masquerading as a dying relative to revise his will, but updates that will in his favor rather than in the family’s. Both works were written in the same year, 1918. The resemblance ends there. It’s even a stretch to present the large-scale, though one-act, “Schicchi” as a chamber opera; its music certainly taxed some of the singers Monday night and kept Frank Conlon, the pianist-music director, more than busy on the keys.
“Schicchi” is also a comedy, made even more broad in this version by transposing the action from medieval Florence to 1960s-era South Philly. Bari Biern, who originally created the English adaptation for the Philadelphia-based company Poor Richard’s Opera, had to do some not entirely successful scrambling to transform Rinuccio’s paean to Florence into an ode to the Eagles and other Philadelphia joys. But Rick Davis, who directed both pieces, did an impressive job creating a stage full of distinct, clearly drawn characters — something rarely seen in this sometimes-complicated little piece.
You don’t go to this kind of event expecting to hear the next Domingo; you go for the intimacy and directness that you don’t always get in a bigger opera house. But Gene Galvin as Schicchi turned in a more-than-respectable performance, quietly giving the character more weight than the others onstage without rubbing everyone’s face in it, and offering solid singing to boot. Laura Wehrmeyer was accurate if a little shrill as his daughter, Lauretta; Lew Freeman was redoubtable as the family’s elder statesman, Simone; and Grace Gori was dramatically if not vocally effective as the snobbish and elegant matriarch, Zita.
There are two more performances: Saturday at 3 p.m. and Monday at 7:30 p.m.