One Great Opera … Two Casts … Drei Pintos

[The Bronx Opera presented the New York staged premiere of Weber & Mahler’s Die Drei Pintos. As is tradition at the oldest opera company of its kind… the production was double cast. here is the first review by Lenny Stough. A second review of the other cast is forthcoming.]

Every season, The Bronx Opera dares to be different and present a rare or unique opera to start its year. This time, they present one that is rare AND unique. Die Drei Pintos, a piece created by Carl Weber, was incomplete at time of his passing. It was parceled from composer to composer until – 65 years later – it was brought to fruition by Gustav Mahler. What is finally there is an engaging, joyous work brought to appreciative audiences in The Bronx and Manhattan. The plot focuses on privileged student Don Gaston deciding to have a little fun with immensely MORE privileged squire Don Pinto by stealing his papers and attempting to woo his rich fiancée, Clarissa – call it 17th century identity theft. He drags girlfriend Inez and long-suffering servant Ambrosio along for the ride. He thought it would be easy as Clarissa’s father, Don Pantaleone, never met the man to become his daughter’s husband, until he encounters a stumbling block in her secret boyfriend Don Gomez – who Pantaleone also never met. Get the picture?

Eapen Leubner as Gaston has a marvelous voice and excellent stage presence. He played the adventurous young man like a matinee idol complete with self-absorption and ultra-brite smile. He was a great foil to Kirk Dougherty’s Gomez who – macho in voice and presence – found all the fun in the role. Jeremy Moore achieves perfection as the droll servant Ambrosio with a top notch voice peppered with great falsetto and well-timed double-takes. Moore was a standout. Hannah Rosenbaum was lovely as Inez, playing the innkeepers daughter with a wink towards Carmen. Catherine Meyers and Patrice Eaton were simply superb as the befuddled bride-to-be and her savvy servant. Both were in great voice and both handled Ben Spierman’s witty topical translation to perfection. Kudos to Brace Negron, who played the pompous Pantaleone with great command, and special nods to Jonathan Harris as the snarky innkeeper and Michael Sarnoff-Wood as the sycophantic servant to the lord of the manor.

And then there was the titular Pinto. An orchestra unto himself, Michael O’Hearn’s interpretation of the foppish Pinto in question was truly uproarious. Clothed straight out of Moliere, O’Hearn’s deep tones and larger than life presence was a guilty pleasure from beginning to hilarious end. His delivery of such simple lines as “I shall marry … a woman” brought peals of laughter from the house. A touch of a snore was enough to make an hilarious drunken bit end perfectly. One can imagine O’Hearn as a Falstaff with ease.

Ben Spierman’s deft pairing of classical style staging with a witty and even slightly sarcastic translation make a visit to The Bronx Opera enjoyable for all tastes. Meganne George’s sunny day in Spain set was gorgeous and made for a fine canvas to Joshua Rose’s expert lighting plan. Meg Zeder’s costume design – like Spierman’s juxtaposition of past and present – gave a hint of time period and a helping of social status for each character with Gaston looking like a (non-Tramp) Charlie Chaplin, Ambrosio straight out of Dickens and Pinto – as a parable to him being behind the times – in full classical wig and cloak.

The orchestra sounded lovely under the baton of Michael Spierman (Eric Kramer – who penned the bright and breezy overture of the opera – conducted the opening). And a top-notch chorus was wrangled well by Michael Hagler.

If you were to Google current productions of Boheme or Traviata, you would undoubtedly get scores of hits – pardon the pun. Goggling rare works like this will supply a lot less – and that shows the real bravery and dedication of The Bronx Opera. They are on to the more intimate and recognizable Don Pasquale in May in its native Bronx and out to Long Island. With quality an expectation from this sincere company, I am sure it will be worth the trip to The Bronx – and beyond.

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