Florida Opera Theatre is carving a niche for itself with short, easily accessible, lighter opera programs. Its current offering, Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Telephone," is a fine entry in that niche. It's onstage at the Art & History Museums — Maitland this weekend.
Director Eric Pinder has augmented the one-act opera with selections performed by Alexandra Martinez and Austin Hallock, who open the show. They have young voices but deliver earnestly.
Their selections are presented as a concert attended by the young sweethearts at the center of "The Telephone." In between the music — which is serious singing — Pinder sets the program's lighthearted tone with nonsense-laden banter. He tosses off references to "famous Russian female bass Ivould nevya-say-nevya" and deadpans that one song "proves the point, whether in English or Italian, if you're not sure if someone loves you… it's very sad."
Pinder lets the main attraction, Menotti's one-act comedy, burble along on the charm and chemistry of singers Feryal Qudourah and Kenneth Stavert. The story, written in 1947, is simple: A young man wants to propose to his gal, but she's too enamored of the telephone.
Sung in English, the opera has lyrics all too familiar to telephone junkies: "I was just thinking of you," trills Qudourah. "I heard the funniest thing."
Even the "uh-huhs" and that arch telephone laugh so many employ are set to music.
Interestingly, although the martini glasses and stack of LPs help set the time frame, it's the old-fashioned rotary phone itself that defines the era.
Stavert's frustration comically grows as he curses the instrument as a "two-headed monster" that "devours my day" — sentiments that in the mobile-phone age ring even more true.
But Menotti's lyrics also capture the early fascination with the telephone — and show how for all its annoyances, the phone can still be a force for good, at least in romance.
"I'm terribly near you," Stavert romantically sings down the line on a call of his own. "Right next to your ear."
Charming. Utterly charming.
• What: A one-act comic opera, with additional works presented in 'A Musical Revue of Ringing Proportions.' Free admission to the A&H Museums' galleries, including the historic Telephone Museum, is included, as is a post-show reception.
• Length: 55 minutes for the musical presentation, galleries open one hour before showtime
• Remaining shows: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27
• Where: A&H Germaine Marvel Building, 210 W. Packwood Ave, Maitland
• Tickets: $30
• Call: 407-718-4365
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