Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: PAREA SERIES: THE TELEPHONE at Home Computer Screens

Updated Version of Menotti's Opera Shows Changes Over 70 Years

Review: PAREA SERIES: THE TELEPHONE at Home Computer Screens On October 3, I watched an updated version of Gian Carlo Menotti's 1947 short opera, The Telephone. The dial telephone tethered to one room of the home that some of us oldsters grew up with has become a portable smart phone and each person has one. Even the time it took to dial a number had to be recalibrated because making connections is so much faster now. Ben and Lucy are still recognizable young lovers, however, and her addiction to the phone is more common than ever.

The Parea Virtual Recital Series, which explains the opera to English speakers around the world, begins with seven minutes of introduction and finishes with twenty minutes of interesting discussion. The conversation involves Emily Misch, a young artist with the Glimmerglass Festival, Will Meinert, an apprentice singer with Santa Fe Opera, pianist Anna Betka, and stage director Audrey Chait, along with company artistic director Trevor Neal and composer Bruce Adolphe.

The opera set consists of a couch, pillows, and a coffee table. Lucy wears a t-shirt and jeans shorts while Ben is dressed for his train trip in a flannel shirt and black pants. Obviously, this is not an expensive opera to stage unless the company has special phones made. During the overture, Lucy performs actions common to those of us in quarantine for COVID-I9. She shows her "haul" from shopping, exercises on the couch, starts to cook, and plays with an exquisitely disinterested cat. Ben is restless because he has to catch a train but he wants to propose marriage to Lucy first.

Most of their music is in the middle of their ranges and for the first few minutes singers and piano seemed to eschew anything softer than mezzoforte. When he tries to get her to sit quietly and listen, she calls Siri and then Alexa for the time, after which her phone nearly vibrates off the couch.

I would love to have heard some deep resonant tones from Meinert, but the part does not lie very low. Writing in the 20th century, Menotti gives Misch rather complicated fioriture which she sings with vivid dramatic coloratura colors. Later on, the artists take a more lyrical approach to Menotti's score and perform their music with honeyed tones. It is fun watching Ben try to sever the charging cord when Lucy dives into the bedroom for a handkerchief. His moment is cut short, however, by her quick return. I think many a young man can commiserate with Ben when he lights candles and pours wine to no avail.

After Ben dons his mask and leaves for the train, Lucy begins to realize what he wanted to ask her and that she is playing with fire. When they eventually talk on the phone, she listens and they sing a charming duet that provides this opera with a delightfully happy ending.

The Parea presentation then ends with a discussion of the 2020 staging by singers Misch and Meinert, accompanist Betka, and stage director Chait, along with company artistic director Neal and composer Adolphe. Having seen the original Broadway presentation as a child, and having heard the opera a few times since, this online show was fascinating. It is available until the end of November for a suggested price of $25 and I think it is a fine introduction to opera.

Photos courtesy of Will Meinert.

From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)

November 9, 2021

Bryce Davis and Cilliers opened their recital program with Richard Strauss' and John Henry Mackay's uplifting 'Heimliche Aufforderung' ('The Secret Invitation'). This joyous, celebratory composition was the composer's gift to his bride on their wedding day. Bryce-Davis sang it with exquisite vocal colors. Next was Robert Schumann 'Die Lotosblume' ('The Lotus Flower') in which the poet Heinrich Heine described the beauty of the love between the flower and the moon. Bryce-Davis showed the lyric tones of her voice as she told of this delicate love.

ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer Screens
November 4, 2021

This evening our online show is Los Angeles Opera’s La Traviata from 2006 with: Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Renato Bruson, Suzanna Guzmán, Anna Akhimova, Daniel Montenegro, Philip Kraus, James Creswell, Sal Malaki, and Mark Kelley. James Conlon conducts the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. The stage director is Marta Domingo. Brian Large directs it for TV.

BWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens
October 31, 2021

The Copper Queen is a modern opera by Clint Borzoni and John de los Santos that tells of times past in Bisbee, Arizona. It won an Arizona Opera competition that insured its place onstage. Because of the pandemic and the fact that currently audience size is quite limited, The Copper Queen became a film that can be experienced online. 

BWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens
October 25, 2021

On October  24, 2021, Los Angeles Opera presented Wagner’s Tannhäuser live online for patrons who cannot get to the theater at this time. Director Louise Muller revived the Ian Judge production of the opera’s Dresden version. A second live streamed performance will be available from LA Opera on October 27. 

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens
October 24, 2021

On October 22, 2021, Opera Philadelphia began streaming its rendition of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This staging is a judiciously cut two-hour-and-forty-eight-minute production by Opera Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. Each company is choosing its own conductor and cast.