Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mélomanie Opens 23rd Season with "Personal" Performance

By Christine Facciolo
Mélomanie devoted the opening concert of the 2016-17 season — its 23rd — to the appreciation of the viola da gamba and its music.

The concert featured Mélomanie Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director Tracy Richardson on harpsichord and the ensemble’s virtuoso gambist Donna Fournier in performance at the Wilmington Friends School in Alapocas. The concert was titled “Up Close and Personal,” and that’s exactly what it was, with the audience seated on stage with the performers.

First things first: As Fournier pointed out, a viola da gamba is not a fretted cello, even though it may resemble one. A cello has four strings while a viol usually has six, like a guitar, or seven. But unlike a guitar, the viol’s frets are not permanently set, but rather made of gut and tied on, like a lute, and thus movable.

The viol is also tuned differently from the cello. Viols are tuned in fourths with a third between the third and fourth strings, just like a lute. Cellos are tuned in fifths. Viols are bowed like cellos but the bow is held underhand rather than overhand.  Another difference: The viol is much quieter than the cello. In fact, they were too quiet to be effective in large orchestras or big concert halls and fell out of favor after the 18th Century.

The program featured a sampling of works by the major gambist/composers, including Marin Marais, Carl Friedrich Abel, Tobias Hume, Gottfried Finger, Georg Philipp Telemann and Johannes Schenck. Contemporaries continuing the tradition included Mark Hagerty and Mark Rimple — the latter a former gamba student of Fournier and now a professor of Music Theory and Composition at West Chester University.

The program also featured a nice balance between solo works — including a recently discovered work by Telemann — and those with basso continuo.

And who better to deliver these works than Fournier, undoubtedly the most accomplished gambist in the region and quite possibly beyond.  Fournier’s tone is sumptuous; her intonation perfect.  The wistful notes and rich depth of the bow across the gamba were complemented by the distinctly sharper sounds of Richardson’s harpsichord.  And just when you thought Fournier couldn’t play any faster, louder or softer — she did!

Particularly arresting was Fournier’s and Richardson’s execution of the expressive lines of Marin Marais’ Suite in A Major.  The deliberate Prelude paved the way for the stately Allemande and the determined Chaconne.  Their rendering of Johannes Schenck’s Sonata No. 1 in D Minor was also expertly done, with the composer’s highly disparate stylistic palette played up to maximum effect. An equally vigorous delivery was given to Mark Hagerty’s Civilisation (2001), which imagined how Baroque might have been played in the 21st Century had not it taken a “wrong turn” in the 18th Century.

Fourier showed off her improvisatory skills in Abel’s Prelude in D Minor, and her technical virtuosity in Finger’s Divisions on a Ground and Mark Rimple’s contemporary Dementanz from Sonata Circumdederunt Me.  Her performance of A Question and an Answer by English eccentric Captain Tobias Hume was clever and witty.  Fournier also treated the audience to a performance of a recently discovered Fantasia by Telemann, applying herself to the wealth of musical ideas contained in the piece.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Delicious War Erupts at the Delaware Theatre Company

The North American premiere of Warren Adler’s tour de force black comedy The War of the Roses opens the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC’s) 2016-17 season. This devilishly witty play exposes the dark side of divorce and invites the audience to savor in its mayhem.

Christina DeCicco & Jake Noseworthy play the doomed couple.
The story is mostly told through flashbacks while the couple – Jonathan Rose, a high-powered Washington, DC lobbyist and his “arm candy” wife Barbara – are meeting with their lawyers to discuss divorce. The play takes the audience on a journey from their first encounter as naïve, idealistic 20-somethings at an auction to the deconstruction of their 18-year marriage in their lavish home.

Over the past 18 years, Jonathan has become successful in the DC political scene, while Barbara (who quit college to marry the then-struggling law student) has accompanied her husband to countless business dinners and parties, while raising their two children. She completed decorating their grand home with fine furniture and art and now she’s ready for a new project – making and selling her gourmet pâté.  Jonathan is not interested in supporting his wife’s new venture; instead, he wants her to remain the perfect wife and mother. Unhappy with his lack of support, Barbara begins to fall out of love and eventually wants a divorce.

Since Barbara worked years creating the perfect home, she feels that Jonathan should be the one to leave…but Jonathan has no plans to move.  To try and rectify the problem, Jonathan and Barbara are instructed by their lawyers to annoy the other one to the point that one of them will leave. The couple goes beyond annoying each other and begins a battle royal when their children leave for camp, escalating into a full-fledged war of will and wit. Director Bud Martin has a keen ability to execute dark, menacing scenes while finding the humor in them. Thankfully, he has a stellar cast ready to tackle the physical and emotional challenges this piece demands.

Jack Noseworthy and Christina DeCicco are spectacular as Jonathan and Barbara. They are tasked with making their characters likeable while demonstrating appalling behaviors, a feat not easily done. These seasoned actors understand the importance of fully developing their characters so the audience connects with them and finds humor in their despicable actions.
Lenny Wolpe as Jonathan’s lawyer, Goldstein, and Cameron Folmar, as Barbara’s lawyer, Thurmont, are also delightful. Mr. Wolpe, a rabbi-turned-lawyer, provides Jewish proverbs to help guide Jonathan through the divorce, while the waspy Thurmont seems to get bored with Barbara’s antics, focusing more on sporting activities while meeting with her. The rest of the ensemble cast including Adam Altman, Eric Kramer, Brian McCann, Kerry Kristine McElrone, and Karen Peakes are hysterical as members of the DC elite during an explosive dinner party scene.

As with most recent DTC productions, the set is an important character. Designer Paul Tate DePOO III has meticulously created the Rose’s magnificent two-story home from the fine furnishings to the gigantic crystal chandelier that plays an important part in the outcome of the war. Unfortunately, the gorgeous set is destroyed by the end of the play – much like the characters’ marriage.

The War of the Roses is the perfect guilty pleasure. Don’t miss it before it closes on October 2nd. For tickets and additional information, visit