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NMSO concert review: Getty, ``Plump Jack''

The article below appeared in the Albuquerque Journal of May 13, 2007. Although the Symphony Chorus was not mentioned, we were part of the performance, and worked for several months on the piece.

by D.S. Crafts

The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and Chorus this weekend staged a concert reading of the final scenes of an opera about Falstaff by Gordon Getty followed by two sonic spectacles by Tchaikowsky and Respighi.

Heir to the Getty fortune, Gordon Getty worked on his opera Plump Jack for several decades. The excerpts performed here begin with the news of the death of the old king. Hal, ascending the throne to become Henry V, surprisingly rejects his old drinking companion Falstaff or “Plump Jack,” as he calls him in one of his least derogatory epithets for the rogue knight. The final scenes, introduced in stentorian voice by baritone Mischa Bouvier as Bardolph (“O for a muse of fire”), concern Henry's assault on France leading to the battle of Agincourt, while Falstaff declines in disappointment of the favors he had expected.

Opening waggishly with an ensemble of robust male singers, the performance features comic baritone Steven Condy in the role of Falstaff. The opera excerpts are given concert-style, meaning there are no costumes or staging, though the singers project their characters well. While the work is in English, supertitles are provided.

Primarily the orchestra serves as punctuation rather than narrative or true accompaniment. The harmonic idiom is eminently tonal and certainly listenable, but, despite a varied palette of colors, it cries out for a memorable melody or two.

Tchaikowsky's Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet brought some brilliant playing from the winds and percussion in particular, maestro Figueroa moving deftly between pathos and fiery passion.

Another orchestral showpiece, Respighi's Pines of Rome depicts four arboreal scenes throughout the city. The spectacular Pines of Villa Borghese delivers the orchestra into a dazzling array of color, followed by the somber and haunting Pines Near a Catacomb. The Pines of the Janiculum was lush with string sonorities and poignant woodwind solos, ornamented with the obbligato recorded birdsong. The final Pines of the Appian Way is one of the great climaxes in orchestral literature and here nothing was spared, with Popejoy Hall resounding to the magnificent outburst glorified by brass players up in the wings.

Next: NMSO concert review: Rachmaninoff, ``The Bells''
See also: New Mexico Symphony Orchestra Chorus: schedule and reviews, 1995–2011
Previous: NMSO concert review: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2007/06/05 00:41:58