Going Nowhere and Loving It

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

Il Viaggio a Reims. Julie Davis-Ramsey, Sidney Outlaw, Nicole Farbes-Lyons, Holly Boaz, Evan Hughes, and other Academy Young Vocal Artists in a comic opera written by Gioacchino Rossini and Luigi Balocchi, directed by Casey Stangl, with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Christopher Larkin. At the Lobero Theatre, Friday, August 4.

Viag-4.jpgAlthough I have had occasional recourse to the word “charming” in reviews, I have seldom attended a show to which it applied more perfectly. The young singers sang with delightful purity and style, and fit their actions perfectly to the mood and pace of the piece. Under the deft baton of Christopher Larkin, the orchestra played brilliantly. The set sparkled, and though the space restrictions of the Lobero prohibited much change of scene, the sumptuous variety of the costumes more than made up for the uniformity of the mise-en-scène.

The plot, if we can use such a definite term, is a potpourri of romantic confusions and comic misadventures befalling a group of upper-class ninnies traveling to Reims for the coronation of Charles X as King of France. Meeting at the improbably large and lavish inn, the Golden Fleur-de-lys (i.e., the “Gilded Lily”), the travelers dash around, fall in love, challenge each other to duels, and generally comport themselves in a PG-rated version of what Georges Feydeau would later bring to naughty perfection as the “French farce.” In the last act, there is a Fledermaus-type gala, at which many of the participants express the most fervent hopes for the peace and tranquility of Charles X’s reign. Alas, it was not to be, and probably would not have been even if Charles himself had not been an intransigent reactionary.

Many of the numbers seemed designed more to display the virtuosity of the singers than to touch deeper emotions (not that there is anything wrong with that, since the singers are so spectacularly gifted). The ensemble set pieces, while exciting, also seemed written to a fixed plan.

There is a nice, almost Chekovian twist, too, in that the guests never actually get to Reims. They, and we, had more fun than if they had.

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