Feeding frenzy

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  September 3, 2010

Two important elements were even more damaging: the "happy ending" Edmiston gave Sam and Dinah, and the long central aria in which Dinah describes to a shopgirl the schlock exotic movie — Trouble in Tahiti at which she's just spent her afternoon. The trashiness of the film that Dinah's good taste leads her to despise is a revelation of her underlying longing for romance and color. This hilarious aria should also be heartbreaking. But Edmiston had Piques Eddy play it not for spontaneity and pathos but as pure shtick, having her race around the stage waving silk scarves as if she had rehearsed it a million times. So at two key moments, the opera turned either sentimental or heartless. Yet Salters and Piques Eddy are such good singers and sympathetic stage presences, and Susan Davenny Wyner is such a skillful and compelling conductor, you couldn't help but be engaged.

And then there was Kaye (a celebrated Dinah herself), as Julia Child, the role Hoiby conceived for Jean (Edith Bunker) Stapleton. Is there anything Kaye doesn't have? She's got stage presence, a voice of wide technical and emotional range, and impeccable comic timing. Hoiby's music, alas, is only a weak imitation of Richard Strauss, especially the Sinfonia Domestica. But Bon Appétit! is primarily a vehicle, and a better driver than Kaye is unimaginable.

To round out the evening, returning to Leonard Bernstein — and to herself — after a stretch of pure impersonation, she brought down the house with her rendition of a song from Bernstein's first Broadway musical, On the Town, "Lucky To Be Me" ("I'm so proud/You chose me from all the crowd,/There's no other guy I'd rather be,/I could laugh out loud,/I'm so lucky to be me"). Everyone there was lucky.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Boston Midsummer Opera as being responsible for a previous summer production at the same venue, Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center. Don Giovanni (2002) was a production of Opera Aperta, of which the late Craig Smith was the musical director. Boston Midsummer Opera succeeded Opera Aperta at the Tsai in 2006.

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