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Review: 'Gianni Schicchi'

| Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Artifacts Gallery at St. James in the West End was a perfect venue for Opera Theater's presentation of Giacomo Puccini's comic opera "Gianni Schicchi," seen Saturday night. The old church has been beautifully restored to display a large collection of art and tapestries, which served as a deluxe environment for an opera set in the home of a wealthy man whose death sets off scheming for his inheritance.

The company's artistic director Jonathan Eaton presented the sure-fire comedy with precise dramatic timing and sharply etched characterizations. The opera is an ensemble piece with the hypocritical mourners handling the dead body with as little respect as they have for his will, which leaves most of his fortune to the church.

Thomas Beard played the title role and emphasized the thoughtful aspects of his character, a reluctant co-conspirator. Jacqueline Bezek was outstanding as his daughter, Lauretta, beautifully singing the opera's sole aria, which emotionally forces her dad's hand. But when Schicchi pretends to be the deceased in order to dictate a new will, he has the last laugh because he takes most of the inheritance.

Tenor Richard Furman was a strong vocal and dramatic presence as Lauretta's ardent beau, Rinuccio. Conductor Bernard McDonald and an expert small ensemble were effective performing reduced orchestration of the opera.

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