The Manhattan School of Music chose Die Verschworenen (“The Conspirators”), Schubert’s one-act singspiel, as a senior class production, presented in German with English dialogue. The piece was directed by Dona D. Vaughn, with a reduced orchestra led by Jorge Parodi. In addition to charming music, dancing and spoken dialogue provided learning opportunities, and the cast seen on March 30(the third show of the run) provided everything one could want.
Schubert was constantly trying to break into the opera world of Vienna, composing Romantic operas, incidental play-music and comic operettas. In this 1822 work, with a libretto by Ignaz Castelli loosely based on Aristophanes’sLysistrata, a group of soldiers’ wives attempt to keep their men at home by withholding sexual favors, but the men get wind of the ploy and effect countermeasures, leading to a standoff and an eventual reconciliation.
The Mad Men-era sheath dresses, with hats, white gloves and pearls, brought out a delightful, youthful glamour in the women of the cast, while a cute march-dance introduced the soldiers. Director Vaughn avoided loading the flimsy plot with gimmicks but guided her singers in finding gentle humor in simple, natural delivery.
Leading the cast was Andrea Carroll as the Colonel’s Wife, her adorably tough demeanor highlighted by a strong, vibrant soprano voice with an attractive dark hue. Carroll delivered her lines with consummate skill and unforced comedic timing. As the newlywed Helen, Allison Nicholas was another standout, offering elegant singing of theromanza ”Ich schleiche bang und still.” As her husband, Astolf, tenor Jonathan Tay showed real feeling in the duet “Ich muss sie finden.”
Ellen Scariati played the maid Isella with earthy humor and a twinkle in her eye, while countertenor Timothy Parsons coped well with Udolin’s high register in their opening duet. Bryce Garner’s alert Colonel was unpredictable and fun, and his singing showed clarity and smoothness.
Mention must be made of Mark Dover’s exemplary clarinet playing in the many obbligato numbers.