Amram's 'Twelfth Night': A jolly time
BY TOM DI NARDO
"TWELFTH NIGHT," comic opera by David Amram. PENNSYLVANIA OPERA THEATER Barbara Silverstein conducting. At Trocadero Theater, 1005 Arch st. Repeat performances tonight. Friday and next Sunday at 7.30 P.M., Tuesday at 10 A.M.
The fertility of Philadelphian David Amram's musical imagination found full flower in Shakespeare's comic "Twelfth Night," set to Joseph Papp's adaptation in 1968. The work matches the humor, wit, and mood with fluid lines, using an exuberant flow and occasional unexpected vocal gymnastics.
The single set by Dean Taucher, a courtyard with balcony and various entrances, was extremely effective; Marie Barrett's lighting varied the 14 scenes well. The opulent costumes by Judianna Makovsky were marellous in muted tones; from the rear the stage reflected washes of pastel images in the sidewall mirrors.
Barbara Silverstein found the simple but effective textures in Amram's well crafted score, which brims not with arias but subtle, urgent sonorities. The orchestra mostly played very well. The Trocadero seems a little too live a hall to allow voices to thrust over the shallow pit in louder passages; sometimes the words cannot be heard, though sung Shakespeare isn't necessarily easier to catch than when spoken.
As usual TPOT's singers are on a similar enough level of quality to work as an unified ensemble. Michael Ballam as the clown Feste, Maureen Wimmer as Olivia, the Viola of Lester Senter, and Edward Bogusz as Toby Belch contributed impressive singing and captured the characters' essence. Wayne Turnage, Vernon Hartman, Leslie Goldman, Stephen Colantti, Carmen Muni and Stuart Alan Goldstein all made the most of their smaller moments.
James Goolsby's direction handled the constant stage action defty. Amram appeared for a bow in tux and everpresent beads, handing out flowers to the cast; his "Twelfth Night" is a fascinating offering, a recommended insight into his remarkable eclecticism.