God Bless Us Everyone – Opera in one act to a libretto by Bill Van Horn & Michael Capasso based on the writings of Charles Dickens [world premiere; sung in English with dicapotitles]
Scrooge – Marc Embree
Tim Cratchit – Jonathan Hare
Elizabeth – Catherine Clarke Nardolillo
Fred – Willy Falk
Fan – Julie LaDouceur
Beau / Ensemble – Nicholas Provenzale
Bob Cratchit / Ensemble – Duncan Hartman
Mrs. Cratchit / Ensemble – Kristen Lamb
Elizabeth’s Father / Mr Braxton / Ensemble – Gary Ramsey
Governess / Ensemble – Selena Moretz
Businessman / Sergeant / Ensemble – Stephen Lavonier
Soldier 1 / Ensemble – Mitchell Hutchings
Soldier 2 / Ensemble – George Kasarjian
Peter / Ensemble – Brian DuBois
Martha / Ensemble – Jenny Greene
Ensemble – Amanda Balltrip, Laura Parker, Rebecca Warren & Jonathan Harris
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
Michael Capasso – Stage Director
Francine Harman – Choreographer
John Farrell – Set Design
Susan Roth – Lighting Design
Carolyn Hoffman-Schneider – Costume Design
Reviewed by: Victor Wheeler
Reviewed: 16 December, 2010
Venue: Dicapo Opera Theatre at East 76th Street & Lexington Avenue, New York City
This is an opera destined to be a Christmastime staple, produced here in conjunction with University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, and melding professional and amateur singers. “God Bless Us Everyone” opens in 1862, twenty years after the events of “A Christmas Carol”. The story picks up after the death of Scrooge and when Tim Cratchit is not so ‘Tiny’. He finds himself in New York City and then as a British mercenary on the battlefields of the American Civil War fighting as a Union soldier. He sees comrade Fred (Scrooge’s nephew and a good friend from England) killed in battle and sees clearly the man who takes his life. This is important for the denouement of the opera. Great imagination between the two librettists and composer went into developing such a convoluted storyline, which works well and with admirable music to push it along.
The chamber orchestra was splendidly conducted, John Nardolillo effortlessly bringing forth the expressive and melodic score. The harp arpeggios and the oboe obbligatos were particularly enthralling, while the muted trumpet was quite effective as was the beauty of the short clarinet solos. The music is often lush and voluptuous with some striking duets and engaging trios. There is both tender lyricism and floods of extreme vocalism. The orchestra never overwhelmed the singing and coordination was excellent.
The singers were all in top form, with the amateurs more than holding their own. Mark Embree’s soaring bass-baritone filled the house with power and grace and many moments of superb and gallant singing. Jonathan Hare showed fabulous preparation as Tim Cratchit, none more so than when his beloved from England (Elizabeth, who had rejected him because he could not give her a life of wealth and ease) arrived in New York to be with him forever and to help him convalesce from a serious injury. His emotive singing nicely captured all the sudden feelings that were rushing about inside him upon realizing that he and Elizabeth were once more together. Catherine Clarke Nardolillo deftly handled her difficult role of both being ogre and saint. Her vocal lines were clear and her upper register in particular showed heft and character. Willy Falk’s sublime tenor successfully carried him through a heartfelt interpretation of the goodness Fred imparts to the story. Julie LaDouceur’s pleasing soprano reflected well the innocence and unselfishness her role embodied, with her high notes always pleasant, and with her singing overall very natural-sounding and never forced.
The rest of the singers took their roles intelligently and credibly and with crisp and instinctive acting. The staging is a tour de force in that the modest scenery realistically evoked the different time-periods of the opera, and the sets were moved about the stage with skillful fluidity. The lighting and costuming were effective. This is another winning opera for Thomas Pasatieri.