Westmont College Theatre Arts and the Music Department have joined forces to produce an evening’s entertainment that should please and delight just about anybody who has their full compliment of senses.
They will be offering “An Evening of One-Act Opera Classics” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan 30-31, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1 in Porter Theater on the Westmont Campus.
The two classics in question are La Serva Padrona/The Servant Turned Mistress (1733) by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736), with a libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico; and The Old Maid and the Thief, “A Grotesque Opera in One Act” (1939), with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007).
La Serva Padrona will be sung by Wendy Kent, Robert Huff and Matthew Maler; The Old Maid and the Thief by Emmalee Wetzel, Serena Lee, McKenna Kleinmeier and Walter Dyer. Ingenious John Blondell will stage the operas; Celeste Tavera will direct, with sets by Yuri Okahana, costumes by Miller James and lighting by Jonathan Hicks.
“The operas couldn’t be more different,” Blondell said. “Where La Serva is bright, comic and whimsical, Old Maid is more overtly psychological, and emotionally and musically demanding. We have worked hard to present the rich detail of each opera, and to unify them in such a way that creates a vivid and compelling evening of great music theater.
“The student performers are doing a fantastic job, and the theater and music faculty hope that this will be just the beginning for an exciting tradition of opera at Westmont.”
As you can tell from his dates, Pergolesi died young — of significant composers, even those killed in a war, only Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga (1806-26) died younger — and La Serva Padrona was so popular that you could publish anything with his name on it and make a profit. After his death, a flood of spurious “Pergolesi’s” came on the market, and scholars have been trying to sort them out ever since.
La Serva Padrona is Pergolesi’s, all right, and it’s about 20 years ahead of its time. (Also indisputably his was the Stabat Mater (1736), whose manuscript was practically found clenched in his dead fist.)
Menotti did not die young, and his life in no way typifies the life of a musician in the 20th — or 18th — century. Nature showered gifts upon him and was always unhooking the rope to let only him through. He used his gifts shrewdly, but never cynically. He composed a good deal of lovely music and wrote many an effective drama. He wrote a wonderful violin concerto, a sparkling piano concerto and a wickedly sensuous ballet (Sebastian), but it is his operas that made him famous, and justly so.
Music historians and journalists tend to assume now that Menotti’s first opera as a professional, Amelia al ballo (1937), was, if not a stinker, an underachiever. In fact, it was so successful that it inspired NBC to commission Menotti to write a radio opera. The result was The Old Maid and the Thief. And that was so successful that NBC later commissioned Menotti to write the first opera premiered on television, Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, seniors and children. You can reserve them by calling 805.565.7140 or online by clicking here.