Haymarket Opera delights with Telemann’s “Don Quichotte”

Sat Mar 14, 2015 at 10:43 am

By Tim Sawyier

Ryan de Ryke and Peter van de Graaff n Telemann’s "Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho" at  Haymarket Opera. Photo: Elliot Mandel
Ryan de Ryke and Peter van de Graaff in Telemann’s “Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho” at Haymarket Opera. Photo: Elliot Mandel

The Haymarket Opera Company under music director Craig Trompeter offered a delightful performance of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho Friday night at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. The effervescent evening provided an education in too-rarely-heard music of the 18th century, with an able cast embodying the humor and sensibilities of the Age of Enlightenment.

Telemann’s 1761 one-act comedy tells of the hapless Don Quichotte and his long-suffering squire Sancho Panzo, sung respectively by Peter Van de Graaff and Ryan de Ryke. The duo made an entrance more than a little reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Don solemnly “riding” a toy horse followed by Panzo dragging a miniature donkey on wheels. They were the only two characters in the opera’s opening scene, which supplied the background of their misadventures and relationship dynamic.

Van de Graaff’s rich, throaty, but never stentorian bass-baritone was perfectly suited to the Don’s fatuous bemoaning of the indulgent sleep habits of supposedly weaker men compared to their heroic counterparts. De Ryke’s catalogue of the duo’s ill-fated non-adventures was delivered in a supple, refined baritone ideally matched to the intimate setting. Tastefully slapstick acting and the comedic elements in the libretto—i.e. Sancho’s proclamation that he will worry about immortality when he’s dead—enhanced the overall impression.

The entrance of a sartorially resplendent quintet of shepherds and shepherdesses—well appointed by costume director Meriem Bahri—marked the opening of the second scene as they sang praises of the lovely bride-to-be Quiteria in well-balanced harmony augmented by affected choreography. Polished soprano Suzanne Lommler was convincing as Grisostomo, a shepherd gone overboard in his adoration of Quiteria, which elicited an amusing aria from Van de Graaff’s Don Quichotte defending the loveliness of his never-seen and quite possibly invented inamorata Dulcinea.

Sancho’s worldview was embodied in an aria of praise for the relative merits of his donkey vis-à-vis those of a wife, humorously enhanced by musical braying from the orchestra. In the only slow, minor-key aria of the whole enterprise, Grisostomo told the assembly that all is not well—Quiteria does not wish to marry the rich Comacho, but rather the young shepherd Basilio, who loves her dearly—and Lommler’s satiny voice delivered the message with pathos.

The brief third scene opened with the entrance of the nuptial couple, soprano Nathalie Colas looking convincingly distressed as Quiteria while the self-congratulatory Comacho, well sung by Eric Miranda, invited all assembled to join in the wedding festivities. The final scene came crashing in with the entrance of the young shepherd Basilio with a dagger lodged in his chest; the stunning tenor Shawn Mlynek poignantly offered his plea that Quiteria be allowed to be his wife for the supposedly short remainder of his life with a sensitive vulnerability.

But when Camacho acceded to his request, Basilio revealed the dagger was fake, and triumphantly flaunted his new wife in Mlynek’s soaring tenor. Comacho, irate, reminded Quiteria of the poverty she was choosing, only to be rebuffed by Colas’ floating, silky soprano telling him that he could keep his money. After Basilio reassured Sancho that he could still partake in the wedding food and wine, all assembled sang an ebullient praise of cleverness (“Die Klugheit is vom günstigen Geschicke”), ending the night reminding the audience that life without sagacity and wit “is but a confusing dream.”

By way of an overture, the orchestra started the evening with C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for Harpsichord with soloist Jory Vinikour. The audience here was introduced to the performance’s one consistent drawback, namely repeated errant string intonation. However, Vinikour’s dexterous playing (which also attentively accompanied the opera’s many recitatives) was almost as impressive as the singing of the dynamic cast, and in both cases the instrumental shortcomings were rendered an almost nugatory afterthought.

Haymarket Opera Company repeats Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mayne Stage. The 5 p.m. performance is sold out. http://www.haymarketopera.org/events.html

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