BAR HARBOR — Well, someone had a perfect day last Friday.
Apparently, it was the guy in seat 3, row E at the Criterion Theater.
During intermission for the Bar Harbor Music Festival’s live production of Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella), he was overheard enthusiastically telling a friend how he and his wife spent the morning climbing Cadillac, the afternoon canoeing on Eagle Lake, and now, to wrap things up, were having a blast at a live opera at the fabulous old art deco theater.
“What more could you ask for?” he asked.
Even the other audience members that night – some 300-plus strong – likely would have concurred.
Providing those high notes were three fabulous sopranos, Alexandra May, Alice-Anne Light and most especially, lovely Laura Krumm playing the Cinderella role, Angelina.
Actually, all three women were lovely. But Light and May had assumed such hilariously clownish characters as Angelina’s two graceless step sisters, Thisbe and Clorinda, that their beauty was hidden under mounds of make-up. These two almost stole the show with their awkward antics, outrageous facial expressions and chattering like a couple of battling raccoon kits.
The real wonder here is how they managed to convey shrillness and silliness while singing, but never once hit an unpleasant note.
Another scene-stealer was their father, Don Magnifico, played by bass Andy Papas. For a big man, Papas was remarkably light on his feet, bouncing about the stage like a beach ball when the Don learned the prince was coming for a visit in search of a wife.
Keith Harris as Dandini, the prince’s Valet, arrived at the Don’s household disguised as the royal bachelor. He really did steal every scene he was in. Ridiculously handsome, Dandini strutted about the stage like a peacock, preening and posturing and thoroughly enjoying his princely role as he vetted the Don’s two daughters as possible bride material for his master.
The prince himself, played by lyric tenor Zac Engle, was pretty darned cute himself. Disguised as his own valet – but in canary knickers and matching argyle stockings, he looked for all the world like P.G Wodehouse’s privileged nincompoop Bertie Wooster. Engle’s effervescent tenor was perfect for this role, which demanded some nimble singing, as well as some impressive high notes, which he handled with aplomb.
In a smaller part, bass Matthew Curran brought gravitas to his role as Alidoro. In fact, he was the only straight-man in the show. He disguised himself as a beggar to test if the members of Don Magnifico’s household had compassion. Angelina, of course, passed with flying colors, while the sisters failed gloriously with garish colors and frothy fascinators.
But no one could have stolen the show from Krumm’s Angelina, who was as delicious to look upon as to hear. She brought a plucky charm to her role as the despised third sister. Cinderella is often played as such a pitiful Pearl, but her La Cenerentola was no pushover. And talk about vocal gymnastics? Her arias were filled with trills, chirps, warbles, breath-taking glissandos, deep cello-like lows and soaring viola highs that must have ranged at least two octaves, all of which Krumm handled with the ease and confidence of a Ninja warrior princess.
Fenlon Lamb’s direction was great fun throughout, studded with brilliant comic gems, such as the interlude where all the characters on stage were suddenly transformed into steeple clock automatons mechanically weaving around and bowing to one another as they sang. Other moments included the rotund El Magnifico and Dandini wrestling over a chair and the two sisty uglers (as Spooner would have termed them) serving as spotlights from the pit by shining flashlights beams on a cardboard limo transporting the prince through a hand-held forest as he sought his lover.
As ever, Cara Chowning was a marvel, accompanying this fine and funny crew on piano without a hitch, even when various characters joined her on the bench.
The set design worked nicely with the Criterion’s own art deco backdrop. If the princely palace was supposed to look as if it had been decorated by tweenies for junior prom with giant gold and tissue paper flowers, it worked.
The Criterion, with its newly upholstered seats and new paint, actually looks like a million dollars these days, or more aptly $2,000,000, which, according to it’s manager Michael Boland, is what an anonymous donor contributed toward the purchase and renovation of the wonderful old theater. And while they still have to work out issues with the movie sound system, for these live unamplified shows, the acoustics couldn’t be better, making for a perfect ending to a perfect summer day in Bar Harbor.
The acoustics also should be excellent at the Congregational Church next Thursday, July 16, when the Ardelia Trio performs the next Bar Harbor Festival concert. For a complete list of festival events, visit www.barharbormusicfestival.org.