BWW Reviews: THE TELEPHONE is an Enticing, Operatic Apéritif
What better way to spend one's lunch hour than an operatic apéritif to whet the appetite for Opera Santa Barbara's upcoming 2014/2015 season? Helmed by artistic director Jose Maria Condemi, Opera Santa Barbara presents The Telephone, a comedic opera in one act for a quick taste of Gian Carlo Menotti's lighter, more humorous work.
The Telephone presents the story of a woman's love affair with her telephonic social escapades, some of which bring her delight, some of which make her distraught, all of which continually annoy her eager but mild-mannered suitor, Ben (Daniel Scofield), as he tries in vain to capture her attention long enough to propose to her before he embarks on a long trip. Lucy (Molly Wilson) is an effervescent character, a social butterfly who finds it difficult to prioritize Ben's rather meek attempts to distract her focus away from the drama happening in the intangible world of the telephone. Ben's frustration, misplaced on the telephone itself, builds to a critical point when he considers cutting the cord-literally. He holds scissors to the phone cable, a desperate and hilarious murder attempt thwarted just in time by Lucy, who rescues her precious link to her social circle. Later, in a moment of unexpected absurdity, Ben opens his suitcase to reveal that instead of clothing and travel accessories, he carries only a single item: gardening shears. Where could Ben possibly be going that he carries nothing but horticultural hardware? Satisfying moments of farcicality aside, The Telephone, though first produced in 1947, features a clear association to the current technological environment in which our obsession with constant social contact via our smart phones is omnipresent. It's uncommon to be in a restaurant and not see people interacting with their phones more frequently and with more emotional investment than with their companions.
The Telephone features excellent performances by pianist Cheryl Lin Fielding, and vocalists Molly Wilson and Daniel Scofield, who, as Ben, finally does manage to get Lucy's attention-by calling her from an outside payphone. It was a fun, enjoyable hour of music and theatre that certainly piqued my interest for Opera Santa Barbara's upcoming season, which includes Verdi's Rigoletto on November 7th and 9th; Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri on March 6th and 8th; and André Previn's operatic adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire on April 24th and 26th. Opera Santa Barbara always features high-caliber vocal artists and outstanding theatrical design, and their performances are not to be missed.
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