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Review: NMSO (May 12)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — 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.

The work of the Bard was in evidence in the second half as well.
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.


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