The Impresario

When Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II challenged Mozart and Salieri each to write a short operatic entertainment for a private party of his, given on February 7, 1786, Mozart came up with this wonderful, one-act bauble. In Central City Opera's current production, performed by members of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, we are regaled by a new adaptation of the original German production (Gottlieb Stephanie, librettist) performed entirely in English, put together by director Michael Ehrman, based on a libretto and translation by Dwight Bowes, as well as additional arias drawn from four other Mozart operas:

Smanie implacabili, Dorabella's aria, Così fan tutte
Là ci darem la mano, Don Giovanni
Ah fuggi il traditor, Donna Elvira’s aria, Don Giovanni
Donne mie la fate a tanti, Guglielmo's aria, Così fan tutte
Papageno's suicide aria, Die Zauberflöte
Nobles seigneurs, salut, Les Huguenots

(Left to right) Chad Sonka as Artemis Overtop and Stephen Clark as Irving D. Geltman
(L to R) Chad Sonka as Artemis Overtop
and Stephen Clark as Irving D. Geltman
Photo: Amanda Tipton
The results are thrilling. Theatre and opera goers will love this inside look at an 18th century backstage comedy with a modern twist. We see that the impresario's lot has changed little in 230 years, with Irving D. Geltman (Stephen Clark) mulling retirement to a chicken farm after a career of dealing with self-possessed divas, conductors, and directors.

How does he do it? If his office is any indication, there is a well-stocked liquor tray, a casting couch, and a formally arranged desk, with a picture of the President, Harry Truman, behind it. Clearly, "the buck stops here." But before he can get out the door, his secretary, Miss Manley (Alice Anne Light), laments her last day on the job and launches into an aria, still attempting, after all these years, to get her boss to notice her lovely voice and give her a role.

Danielle Palomares as Madame Tiefgurgle and Peter Lake as Placebo Paravotti
Danielle Palomares
as Madame Tiefgurgle
and Peter Lake as Placebo Paravotti
Photo: Amanda Tipton
No sooner does Miss Manley finish than a young director, Artemis Overtop (Chad Sonka) enters with a flourish, promoting a new opera, a spaghetti western written by the famous tenor, Placebo Paravotti (Peter Lake), called The Abduction from the Corraglio. Oh that Mozart, what a jokester, using a pun to reference his own opera—the one the Emperor had said contained "too many notes." It's nice to know that Mozart, while in need of a permanent position, didn't shy away from making fun everyone, including the Emperor. Ehrman does well updating all the character names, providing humorous insinuations.

With Overtop is Madame Tiefgurgle (Danielle Palomares), a famous but aging German diva, who now performs best while knocking back some drinks. She belts out a beautiful aria and agrees to take the lead role, if Geltman can come up with her exorbitant fee. Geltman is ready to escape once more when in walks the voluptuous Bettina Braswell (Ashley Fabian), to audition for the soubrette (saucy) role. Despite her multiple talents, as shown in an aria and a duet with Overtop, Geltman is still in retirement mode.

Ashley Fabian as Betty Braswell
Ashley Fabian as Betty Braswell
Photo: Amanda Tipton
But when the two sopranos nearly come to blows, after what might best be compared to a "cutting contest" between two jazz musicians, Geltman is saved by a deus ex machina.

One can see why Central City Opera has such consistently good ensembles, as all of these artists from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program possess wonderful instruments that serenade us with some of Mozart's best stuff. Ehrman has just the right touch in inducing a host of wry, melodramatic performances from his talented crew.

Aaron Breid conducts a sweet, onstage quintet of two violins (Takanori Sugishita, Chris Jusell), viola (Brian Cook), cello (Cedra Kuehn), and piano (Eric McEnaney).

Central City Opera's presentation of The Impresario, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has one more performance, on August 3rd. For tickets:

Bob Bows

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