This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Logan • In opera and musical theater, there are few more famous or beloved works than Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" or Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady." With such material it's hard to go wrong. Fortunately, Logan's Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre allowed these scores to shine on their own without pretense or convoluted concept.
Three jarring chords at the beginning of "Tosca" signaled the chilling power of Baron Scarpia, Rome's immoral chief of police, sung forcefully by baritone Jeffrey Snider. The three-note motif reappeared throughout the opera in various guises, including after the character's death his malevolence not yet played-out.
Scarpia's death scene presented an eerie tableau with flickering light from the fireplace illuminating his body.
Director Jack Shouse skillfully orchestrated this visceral atmosphere a necessity for the realistic verismo style.
The eponymous heroine, sung brilliantly by soprano Carla Thelen Hanson, performed the famous aria "Vissi d'arte" (I lived for art) passionately, soaring thrillingly to the melody's lofty heights.
Tenor Jonathan Burton, as the painter and political prisoner Cavaradossi, poignantly sang the opera's other famous aria, "E lucevan le stelle" (Where the stars were shining brightly), giving top tones muscular heft and brilliance.
Other highlights included Kevin Nakatani as Angelotti, an escaped prisoner and friend of Cavaradossi; Samus Haddad as the Sacristan; and boy soprano Connor Morrison, singing from the balcony as the shepherd boy.
Sumptuous sets by designer Jim Lyden and Patti Johnson's period costumes were opulent and detailed.
The chorus, augmented with 13 young singers dressed in crimson robes, thundered impressively during the ceremonial "Te Deum" but unfortunately, the keyboard player must have hit the wrong setting and, instead of church bells, a piano was heard. Conductor Karen Keltner didn't miss a beat, and all soon returned to normal.
Keltner's impeccable interpretive sense and the consummate professionalism of cast and crew made this one of UFOMT's finest operatic productions in memory.
'My Fair Lady'
Henry Higgins is a misogynistic, quick-tempered, stubborn man. So why does he still charm audiences? Part of the reason is Lerner's clever libretto and Loewe's tuneful music. But at UFOMT, it was baritone Kyle Pfortmiller whose compelling performance brought down the house.
Pfortmiller comfortably inhabits the irascible professor, performing with credible accent, brisk pacing and rhythmic sing-speak in songs like "Why Can't the English?" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." His transformation through three festival leading roles (Valentin in "Faust," Fred/Petruchio in "Kiss Me Kate" and Higgins) was remarkable each vastly different from the other. But his was not the only makeover.
Vanessa Ballam, who played the Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, not only morphed into a member of society in "Lady" but showed substantial range compared to her role as Lilli/Kate in "Kiss Me Kate."
But throwing herself completely into the harsh dialect and strident tones of a London street urchin seemed a bit strained – after all, singing with a beautifully centered tone is unalterably ingrained into her DNA. Once she got to "The Rain in Spain," her glowing sound was irresistible.
Her father, festival founder and general director Michael Ballam, was another amazing transformation, wearing a bulbous nose as her stage father, Alfred P. Doolittle. He was nearly unrecognizable as he slipped comfortably into his character's skin a feat that "is second nature to him now" after last year's memorable stint as Fagin in "Oliver."
Lee Daily, playing Colonel Pickering, was a great comic foil for Higgins' bluster, with impeccable timing and a gift for slapstick that were hilarious during "I'm an Ordinary Man."
Stage director Valerie Rachelle with choreographer Keenon Hooks and costume designer Tommy Macon gave the show Broadway polish, leaving no detail unaddressed.
Frequent set changes must have exhausted the excellent stage crew, but Robert Little's scenic designs and Chad Bonaker's vivid lighting were amazing. The Ascot horse race scene was especially memorable.
Golden-voiced Ben Houghton as Freddy sang "On the Street Where You Live," and Kevin Nakatani, Andrew Lunsford, Christopher Frisco and John Buffett made a striking quartet in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" Vanessa Schukis impressed as Henry's mother, Mrs. Higgins. She only needed to raise an eyebrow to get a laugh.
As always, gifted conductor Karen Keltner on the podium kept everything moving smoothly. The orchestra, chorus, principals and unseen production crew deserve highest praise for a job well done.
'Tosca' and 'My Fair Lady'
Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre presents four shows in repertory, with additional concert events.
"Tosca" reviewed • Friday matinee, July 13; continues July 21, 1 p.m.; July 26, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 10, 7:30 p.m.
"My Fair Lady" reviewed • Friday, July 13 show; continues July 14, 1 p.m.; July 19, 7:30 p.m.; July 20, 7:30 p.m.; July 25, 7:30 p.m.; July 28, 1 p.m.; Aug. 3, 1 p.m.; Aug. 9, 1 p.m.; Aug. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Also • Plays in repertory with "Faust," which plays through Aug. 11; and "Kiss Me Kate," which continues through Aug. 10.
More • The company's special concerts include a Tribute to Judy Garland, July 19 at 1 p.m., and July 28, 7:30 p.m.; and Johann Sebastian Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" Aug. 8, 6:30 p.m.
Where • Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan
Tickets • $9-$76; series tickets from $38-$304. Call 435-750-0300 for information, 1-800-262-0074 for tickets, or visit http://www.ufomt.org for show schedule.