The Bloomington Early Music Festival’s opera offering this year is a musically lush production of Johann Adolf Hasse’s setting of the Pyramus and Thisbe tale, “Pyramo e Tisbe.”
Tisbe was beautifully sung by Dong-Hee Kim. Kim’s vocal production appearedso easy and effortless that at times the words seemed to simply float from her lips. At the same time she had power to easily carry over the orchestra and fill the Buskirk-ChumleyTheatre. Tisbe’s love, Piramo, is a trouser role and Colleen Brooks not only sang very well, but seemed very much the eager boy. I especially enjoyed Kim and Brooks in the beautiful duets that Hasse wrote. Emilio Jiménez Pons played Tisbe’shard hearted father. Jiménez Pons handled his part well and showed particular control in a difficult aria that alternated verses of warm parental love and cold rage. Christopher Gobles was an audience favorite as a comical lion. It’s not many actors who can do a good impression of scratching behind their ear with a hind foot.
Although “Pyramo e Tisbe” is a compact piece with just the three singers and the lion, the orchestra is a full twenty pieces with strings, flutes, oboe, bassoons, horns and harpsichord. I thought it was a hallmark of the sort of sharing of experience and cooperation at BLEMF that the two cellists switched chairs during the intermission. Stanley Ritchie conducted the performance with a light yet rhythmic touch and delicate attention to balances throughout. Chia Patiño’s stage direction gave the impression of artless simplicity. I especially enjoyed the boisterous yet tentative courting dances between Piramo and Tisbe, but the staging didn’t skimp on the dramatic conclusion. In addition there was a nice little bit of mystery as white leaves or flower petals fell during the final act, turning to red at the conclusion.
“Pyramo e Tisbe” was sung in Italian with a nicely timed translation projected above the stage.
In addition to “Pyramo e Tisbe” Bloomington Early Music Festival fans have many performances to enjoy this week. Just focusing focusing on theatre, there is the medieval play “Robert of Sicily” Wednesday night at Trinity Epsicopal. On Thursday Antonio Sarri’s comic intermezzo “The Clever Woman and the Foolish Man” will be presented in Auer Hall in a performance featuring WFIU’s Music Overnight host Peter Van De Graaff. Recorder virtuoso Eva Legene will tell the story of “The Prince Who Wanted a Bird” on Saturday morning at the Waldron. Thursday through Sunday the play “Bach at Leipzig” is at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. More information is available at the Festival’s web site at www.blemf.org.
“Piramo e Tisbe” by Johann Adolf Hasse will be performed just one more time at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, Saturday at eight.