Silly ‘Il Signor’ a fun night of opera
Sinfonietta Bel Canto Rossini and Schubert Anniversary
3 p.m. Sunday, March 10
Immanuel Lutheran Church, 5211 Carpenter St., Downers Grove
$19; $16 seniors, $7 students
(630) 284-5007; SinfoniettaBelCanto.org
The anniversaries of two important classical composers will be celebrated when the Sinfonietta Bel Canto presents a program of music by Rossini and Schubert Sunday.
The theme of the ensemble’s 2012-13 season is “Forgotten Gems” and the program includes Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 1, composed in 1813 and Gioacchino Rossini’s one-act comedy “Il Signor Bruschino,” which received its first stage performance that same year.
“We do two semi-staged short operas or shorter adaptations of operas every season in the spring and fall,” said Dan D’Andrea, conductor and one of the founders of the orchestra. This is the third season for the group, which sprang from the Salt Creek Sinfonietta, where D’Andrea had been music director and conductor for 14 years.
A bassoonist and pianist, D’Andrea finds that as artistic director of this new ensemble he serves as rehearsal pianist, stage director and conductor. “In performance our operas are accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra “ he said, obviously pleased. “You don’t find that very often with small opera companies.”
During his Salt Creek years, D’Andrea was honored for outstanding programming, and it is clear that this remains one of his goals.
“By naming our group Sinfonietta Bel Canto, we made a commitment to doing opera,” he explained. “So I find short entertaining operas and make adaptations to suit our circumstances.”
Circumstances include performing in a church where it is not possible to construct sets. “But it is semi-staged with costumes and props,” he explained, “and good singers, some of them were or are members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.”
The cast includes bass Henry Michael Odun of Berwyn in the title role of Signor Bruschino; bass-baritone Luther Gulseth of Forest Park as Gaudenzio; soprano Angela Presutti Korbitz of Woodridge as Sofia; tenor Jeff Goodlove of Elgin as Florville; tenor William Ortega of Oak
Park as Bruschino’s son and a police commissioner; soprano Jeanne Seyller of Downers Grove as Marianna, and baritone Al Pedersen of Western Springs as the innkeeper.
Korbitz, who portrays Sofia, teaches undergraduates at Vandercook College of Music in Chicago and teaches graduate students there during the summer. She also teaches vocal pedagogy at North Central College in Naperville and is a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
She performed under D’Andrea’s baton in Mozart’s comic one-act “The Impresario.” “It’s about dueling divas,” she explained, “and lots of fun.”
And so is “Il Signor Bruschino,” she declared. “This opera has such smart humor,” she said.
Bass-baritone Henry Michael Odum of Berwyn, a Jeff Award-winning actor as well as singer, has the role of Bruschino. He sings in the choir of St. Odilo Catholic Church in Berwyn.
Last fall Odum sang in Sinfonietta Bel Canto’s presentation of Schubert’s comic one-act opera “Die Verschworenen.” He has sung with numerous other performing arts groups, including Light Opera Works in Evanston, Pegasus Players and Porchlight Music Theatre, both in Chicago. “I was in ‘Ragtime’ at Porchlight,” he said, proudly referring to the 2007 show which won five Joseph Jefferson Awards that year.
Gulseth plays Gaudenzio, the guardian of the young Sofia, his ward, who wants to marry Florville. Her guardian, however, dislikes Florville’s father and promises her hand to the son of his friend Signor Bruschino. Of course, true love triumphs, but not without several hilarious mishaps along the way.
“The opera is lots of fun,” Gulseth declared, “but it has a confusing plot.” In addition to singing solos with the choir of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, he is studying for master’s degree in music at Concordia University in River Forest.
“I play the innkeeper, who is holding Bruschino’s ne’er- do-well son hostage,” said Pedersen, who is also a member of the 30-voice Hinsdale Chorale.
“I like the opera because the music is very fine, while the plot is delightfully silly,” he continued.
The role of Marianna will be taken by soprano Jeanne Seyller, who recently left the Chicago Symphony Chorus after 17 years. “In the opera I am the maid who helps the young lovers as they scheme to get married, in spirt of her guardian’s wishes,” she explained.
Seyller holds a masters of music degree in voice performance and pedagogy from Roosevelt University where she studied with renowned teacher Maria Lagios. She also took part in vocal training programs in Italy and France and studied art song interpretation with accompanist Dalton Baldwin.
“Il Signo Bruschino” has been adapted to fit in half the concert. “That’s the artistic director’s job also,” D’Andrea explained. “In this opera there is a lot recitative or narrative dialogue as well as Rossini’s beautiful music. My Italian is pretty good, so I have tried to condense the script and I am writing the supertitles.
“But this opera has a screwy plot, so the audience has to know what’s going on,” he concluded. “We want to make sure they get all the jokes.”