The Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Opera Theater’s final offering for the season was a four-performance run, at the end of April, of Johann Strauss, Jr. and Ignaz Schnitzer’s “Der Zigeunerbaron” (The Gypsy Baron, 1885), Strauss’ greatest success, beside “Die Fledermaus,” and the second night in the double-cast presentation, on April 28, is discussed here. This “Zigeunerbaron,” with songs in German and dialogue in English, proved colorful, exceptionally well sung, under Kynan Johns’ baton, and with action updated by a century, from the 1740s to the 1840s, by director Linda Brovsky, exceedingly political, with definite haves and have nots and a division into a ruling power and an oppressed people. Landowner and pig farmer Zsupán’s home was a mansion, albeit run down and with stuffed pigs dotting the property, while gypsy Czipra’s was a wagon. A woman working for Zsupán shook dust from a rug directly onto Czipra, there were cries of “Down with Austria,” and a call of “Long live the Emperor” was answered with “Long live the Revolution.”
Timothy Lanigan, as the titular ‘Gypsy Baron,” Sándor Barinkay, told his story, in “Als flotter Geist und früh verwaist,” his talking-to-the-animals number, in a smooth, light, high lyric tenor. Soprano Shaina Martinez, as Saffi, the gypsy who is revealed as a princess and becomes Barinkay’s bride, made the most of her song “So elend und so treu ist keiner,” its refrain of “Dschingrah” echoed by the aggressive gypsy band. There were two outstanding mezzo-sopranos and two striking baritones, all cutting memorable figures: Michelle Blauman as Czipra and Lisa Barone as Mirabella, displaying lush instruments, and José Maldonado as “Prince of Swine” Kálmán Zsupán, singing the praises of the pigs he raises and recounting his military exploits in a ringing baritone, and Michael Gracco, as Count Homonay, recruiting for the Hussars’ army and stopping the show with his martial air, sung in a polished baritone. Both men were principals in the cast of “The Adventures of Vixen Sharp Ears” here the previous month. Yesul Yeon, as Zsupán’s daughter Arsena, betrothed by arrangement to Barinkay, but in love with Ottakar (Michael St. Peter), introduced herself, in “Du bist der Erste nicht,” singing in a bright soprano, with fluent coloratura prowess. August Bair and Andrew Henry were the others.
As predicted by Czipra, Barinkay discovered a hidden treasure, which he donated to the cause, and the subsequent gypsy chorus echoed the Anvil Chorus, from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.” Grand ensembles and the signature Strauss waltzes were impressively performed. Visit www.msmnyc.edu
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