1962 Opera - The Maid of the Mountains
Senior House Drama
There were many who said that the opera this year was the best the College has ever presented. Be that as it may, of those that I can claim to have seen, it was certainly the most enjoyable. This may be due to the fact that the production was on a larger scale than ever before, with several innovations and carried through by a very evenly balanced cast. All of which can and, in this instance, did add up to success.
Though the Maid of the Mountains has basically a good plot, the story is allowed in the third act to degenerate into absurdity in order to bring about the happy ending. This, however, matters not at all; what does matter is that wonderful host of singable tunes. Music of laughter, gaiety and wit, animated with the charm of a more relaxed and gracious age, these melodies touch the heart as well as roll back the years. Their melodic appeal, in spite of being different from the modern popular music, is as valid today as it was yesterday, and this was truly a show of enduring delight. In the playing, in the costumes and in the setting there was a style that left a vivid memory" long after curtain-fall.
The tale is of Baldasarre, a brigand chief, who lives in the mountains of some sunny country with a band of not-too-Ioyal followers. Their needs are looked after by a devoted gypsy maiden, Teresa. She, however, is captured by the governor and while attempting her rescue Baldasarre becomes infatuated with the governor's daughter, Angela. This leads to the betrayal of the robber chief by Teresa and his being sent in chains to Devil's Island. Eventually all ends happily with the escape and reconciliation of Baldasarre and Teresa, "the Maid of the Mountains."
John Fitzpatrick was outstanding as the wily rogue himself, full of power, swagger and command. The character of Baldasarre, as played by John, is complicated and not very attractive. As a robber thief he can be ruthless, impersonal and harsh, but at the same time never undignified; in his relations with womenfolk, however, he is always courteous, thoughtful, forbearing (though he does not suffer fools gladly). These, one feels, are innate qualities of the robber chieftain and not just assumed for the purpose of his impersonation of the governor. Some would say that Baldasarre is a much more straightforward character-a hero, simply and solely. They may be right but John's much more human and living character came across the footlights with a greater impact and revealed him as a most promising actor.
" Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" about sums up the character of Teresa. Robert Thompson in this role acted the part superbly and was, I thought, especially good when deep emotions of jealousy and anger had to be displayed. It is a little unfortunate that the role does not give more scope for a smiling maid of the mountains. Robert has a fine voice but the singing of this demanding role must have imposed quite a severe strain on it.
Tony Moore was General Malona, a very silly and unreal character, and for that reason very difficult to act with any real conviction. In this, his last year in the College, what can one say of Tony as an actor that has not already been said? Read the opera notes of the last few years-but just in case you don't, let me quote: "Tony is an excellent actor who is obviously interested in Gilbert and Sullivan opera, for his manner of acting is very reminiscent of the Gilbertian type. Definitely a success."
Did Vittoria (Barry McGovern) almost steal the show? Perhaps not, but in other casts, she... I mean, he might well have done so, for Barry-can act, and sing and dance! It was high comedy indeed when Brian Greene, in the role of the brigand, Tonia, came face to face 'with his most carefully- avoided wife, Vittoria, for the first time. The fun mounted ,"with each further encounter, and their final lachrymose reconciliation which almost seemed to deluge the whole stage in a veritable ocean of tears had many of the audience reaching for their handkerchiefs ... in merriment. It was with relish that we looked forward to the duets of this pair of very accomplished comedians. Brian brought to his part an excellent sense of timing, aplomb and liveliness.
Paul Dorgan had the difficult role of Angela and deserves full marks for a first-class performance. As this is not a singing part really, it was his speaking voice that captured our attention. Paul spoke his lines very well in a beautifully modulated voice, and ",lith the help of make-up and fine costuming really looked the part.
Two of the less important roles stand out in my mind, that of Crumpet, wonderfully performed by John Griffin, and the part of Corporal Terroni (Desmond Grant) who reminded one forcibly, and, perhaps intentionally, of Fidel Castro in bushy beard make-up. Both these roles have few lines and could easily pass unnoticed in the opera. The two boys, however, created for themselves two very good comic characters.
Fergus Armstrong (Pietro) and Rory Wilson (Beppo) were the singing brigands and shared between them the principal male songs of the show, singing them very well indeed. "A Bachelor Gay," the best known song, was each night deservedly encored, for the fine singing voice of Fergus rendered it due merit. The best known of Rory's songs was probably " A Paradise for Two". His voice was sweet and sincere and eminently suited to melodic tunes.
The other brigands, Carlo (Denis Hanrahan), Andrea (Declan McCourt), Zacchi (Jim Dorgan), the dashing but disappointed-in-love Lieutenant Rugini (Noel Broderick), the Mayor of Santo (Walter Roughneen) and the Lady-in-vVaiting, Gianetta (Paul Doran), were well played. Oftentimes, such supporting roles, carelessly played and acted, can take from the general production. In no case was it so in this presentation.
In spite of what has been said it still remains that these roles were all acted by boys, and to expect the finesse of professional actors is to look for too much. They were an evenly balanced cast and so succeeded; but no matter how good principals are, they must be backed by a strong, lively chorus. It is in this department that a school production can sometimes score over the professional, In the College this year the whole show was rounded off beautifully by fine, resonant and intelligent singing on the part of both senior and junior chorus-they had also that spark, that interest in what was happening on the stage to mark them out as a really good chorus.
The production of the show was in the hands of Captain C. J. O'Sullivan, L.G.S.M., L.L.C.M. His touch was discernible throughout and much of the success of the opera must go to him. A word, too, should be added regarding the staging. The sets were beautifully designed and painted by Mr. J. Mahon, and the introduction of new lighting, together with cloud and sea effects, gave the final touches to a very competent and stylish presentation. Congratulations to Fr. MacMorrow who, ably assisted by Fr. Maher and Miss Foley, looked after the musical side. Fr. Doyle, assisted by Aidan MacSweeny, Liam Reynolds and Pat Thornton, was stage manager. Conductor was Captain D. Mellerick, B.Mus., and leader of the orchestra, Jack Cheatle.