March 22, 2013

By Steve Smith [excerpt]

Kudos to the Little Opera Theater of New York, which has deemed Gluck’s comedy “L’Ivrogne Corrigé” worthy of revival. Presented as “The Reformed Drunkard” in an English translation at the 59E59 Theaters complex.

Barely an hour long, “L’Ivrogne Corrigé” dates from 1760, when it was created for the Burgtheater in Vienna just two years before the advent of “Orfeo.” Despite a larkish tone that prevails throughout the first part of this tiny opera, the work includes strong intimations of the masterpiece hot on its heels.

The Little Opera Theater is presenting “The Reformed Drunkard” with alternating casts; on Tuesday the strongest impressions were made by Anthony Wright Webb, a nimble tenor, as Mathurin, and Ron Loyd, a robust baritone, as Lucas. Both were agile comedians, manifesting a happy chemistry with each other and with the audience.

Conducting from the harpsichord at stage right, Richard Owen drew refined, stylish playing from a string quartet and a hard-working oboist [from Camerata NY]. Even with reduced forces, Gluck’s music rang with economy and originality, foreshadowing “Orfeo” in passages evoking Mathurin’s damnation and forgiveness. Passages from Gluck’s ballet “Don Juan” were seamlessly incorporated.

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