Lunchtime lunacy in MIT chapelThe Royal Victorian Opera Company performed Eyes and No Eyes or The Art of Seeing, by W. S. Gilbert and F. Pascal. MIT Chapel, September 12, noon.
This term's Thursday lunchtime chapel concerts got off to a dashing start with a visit by the Royal Victorian Opera Company which specializes in bringing life to 19th century chamber opera. On offer was a rarity from William Gilbert and Joseph Williams who -- as both composer and publisher -- avoided the embarrassment of having his name on the score as issuer of his own work by adopting the nom de plume of "F. Pascal."
The story is simple, but effective. It is built on symmetry: There are two pairs of young lovers, one pair of old dotards. During the first half there is a non-existent cloak said to be visible only to true lovers; in the second half there is a real cloak supposedly available only to the eyes of flirts.
The ensemble performed with great energy and kept up the momentum of this tightly constructed piece of froth. Ethelwyn Worden sang Nicolette, the aging coquette. In a wonderful costume, designed to highlight the character's coarseness, she struts across the stage, fooling no-one with efforts at mock-repectability. Having informed the two girls of the "bad news" that their boyfriends are really running after her, she launches into a hilarious aria, nicely sung and supported by a conspiratorial keyboard part deftly played on the harpsichord by Wayne Ward.
Tom Dinger and Mark Kramer -- as brothers and lovers Pierrot and Arlequin -- proved to be champions of comedy. Their patter was pitter-perfect and hilarious. "And each of the twins is a brother," they sing, Dinger's fine lyrical voice and flashing eyes matching Kramer's clarity of enunciation and expressions of youthful befuddlement. The simulated suspence from the harpsichord again added to the amusement.
Carol Stone and Jenny Nicholson nimbly portrayed the sisters of mischief Clochette and Columbine, cloaking the plot in confusion over the existence of both the tell-tale garment and their admirers' true love. The boys admit to each other that "we both didn't see it [the cloak]," and prance off in a panic.
Enter Cassandre (sung by Stuart Rubinow), the wealthy farmer, dressed in black and so quick to establish his authority that he accidentally flogs his own side. Rubinow's diction was rich and clear, his tone assertive and characterful. He was especially funny in league with Worden whose Nicolette we can guess Cassandre will soon wed.
Indeed all ends well, both for the characters in this story and for an audience which returned to work well entertained by this hour of lunacy in the chapel.
Thursday Chapel concerts are a wonderful way of soothing the nerves at that time of the week when the weekend insists on remaining out of sight. On September 19 Renate Dieker, recorder and Peter Sykes, harpsichord, will play works of Telemann, Van Eyck, Schickhardt and Heberle, and on the 26th Thayer Brass -- Jonathan Clark and John Ossi, trumpets, Katherine Poor, French Horn, and Maureen Horgan, trombone -- will play works by Purcell, Le Jeune and Ramsoe.