A Stunning End of the Season
Three more performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) remain (tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday afternoon) and a final master class by tenor David Bender will be held tomorrow afternoon; but, for all intents and purposes, last night's program of seventeen ("Count them!," as Phineas T. Barnum would say) opera and operetta scenes served as a "graduation ceremony" for the eighteenth season of the Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute (BASOTI). Appropriate to the mission of the Institute, the offerings affirmed, once again, that "Theater" is the operative noun in the BASOTI name with a dazzling array of dramatic situations staged by two of the BASOTI stage directors, Artistic Director Yefim Maizel and Rod Gomez… As graduations go there could not have been a more favorable light to display the BASOTI talents, and every name in the performer biographies listed in the program is one to watch for in future operatic events. However, there were a few specific events that deserve a more focused attention as representatives of the BASOTI mission. One of these was the work of Maizel himself, who concluded the evening with a staging of the finale of the first act of Gioachino Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri. Comedy was always Rossini's strong suit, and he had a knack for bringing a collection of awkward situations into a collision of "organized" stage madness. This technique is evident throughout Il Barbiere di Siviglia; but it is already in full flower in the earlier Italiana finale. Maizel staged this with a clockwork-like precision that assaulted the audience with one absurdity after another until even the text itself had devolved into nonsense syllables. The ensemble he assembled for this scene never skipped a beat in all of this intricate machinery; and, while this was a relatively long scene at the end of a long evening, the audience was thoroughly energized by Maizel's skills in ending the program with a bang.