by MICHAEL CARUSO
The 2012 season of free outdoor concerts in Pastorius Park ended last Wednesday, Aug. 1, with a disappointing cancellation. Two weeks before that, Runa’s concert was moved to an auditorium at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. This time around, the decision not to perform outdoors due to inclement weather was made too late to move the Dukes of Destiny’s performance indoors to the rain location.
I was one of several dozens of music lovers who showed up at Pastorius Park Wednesday evening to find the stage empty, even though the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s telephone hotline continued to maintain that the concert would take place as scheduled in the park.
Like several dozen others, including a gentleman who had driven from New Jersey, I decided to drive over to Springside on the chance that the concert had, indeed, been moved indoors. Once there, I was informed by a helpful security guard that no concert was taking place at Springside that evening and that the building was closed. Calling the hotline once again, I then heard the message that the concert had been cancelled.
In an e-mail sent to me Aug. 2, Julie Byrne (co-chair with Neil Scheinin of the 2012 Pastorius Park concert series) wrote, “A decision on the concert location has to be taken during the afternoon on concert day to allow time for concert set up. The decision on park versus rain location is made based on the available information at that time.
“In the event we move the concert to the rain location, we communicate the decision to all involved in the concert AND our concert-goers. Our notification process includes updating the outgoing phone message at the CHCA office, updating the CHCA website and also sending an e-mail to CHCA members to notify them the venue has been changed. Fortunately, this is relatively rare.
“Yesterday afternoon, the forecast indicated the bad weather would pass by the time of the concert set-up and the concert itself, therefore we remained in the park. Unfortunately the situation changed late on and there was some heavy rain during set-up. Neil and myself were both extremely disappointed, however for the safety of the musicians and all concerned we had no choice but to cancel the performance. Given that this occurred during set-up it was unfortunately too late to move the concert to our rain location. Our apologies to all for the disappointment.”
The Delaware Valley Opera Company opened its production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” Saturday evening in the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in East Falls. Continuing Aug. 8 and 11 at 8 p.m., the mounting serves as a reminder of just how difficult masterpieces are to perform.
That “Rigoletto” is a true masterpiece goes without question. Just as Verdi stands head-and-shoulders above all other Italian opera composers and is the only legitimate rival of Richard Wagner in all of opera, “Rigoletto” stands head-and-shoulder above almost all of Verdi’s other works.
Its story is compelling. The title character is a hunchbacked jester in the court of the Duke of Mantua, a handsome, virile young aristocrat whose principal hobby is seducing any woman who catches his eye. Rigoletto has dealt with his deformity by cruelly inflicting verbal pain on the Duke’s couriers, even those whose daughters and wives he has ravished.
Francesco Maria Piave’s libretto may not be a model of delicacy, any more than Victor Hugo’s original play was, but it served as inspiration for some of Verdi’s most highly charged and colored music. And then there are those notes to be sung. The opera boasts some of the most beautiful, dramatic, emotional and daunting vocalism Verdi ever composed.
So how did DVOC do Saturday night? Not that well. Music director and piano accompanist Elise Auerbach played well, but no piano can replicate the sound Verdi intended for “Rigoletto.” Richard Shapp’s stage direction was serviceable, but there was never that sense of foreboding menace that must permeate every moment onstage. The stage was filled with convincing props, but they seemed hard to maneuver between scenes. Of the cast, only soprano Suzanne Gerace performed well. She sang expressively and acted simply yet effectively as Gilda, literally doomed to love a man too fickle to love anyone more than his own pleasure.
It’s all well and good to aspire to present a major work from opera’s standard repertoire such as “Rigoletto,” but if discretion is indeed the better part of valor, then lighter fare might have been a better choice.