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MUSIC REVIEW : FALLIS PARODIES OPERA IN ‘PRIMADONNA’ AT LMU

As Anna Russell, Gerard Hoffnung and others have amply delineated, there is definitely room for self-parody in High Musical Culture.

Now, via the Stratford Festival in Canada, materializes “Primadonna,” as embodied by Canadian coluratura Mary Lou Fallis. Experienced Wednesday night at Murphy Recital Hall on the Loyola Marymount campus, “Primadonna” swoops and glides in the vocal stratosphere. Our heroine shares her fears, pratfalls and dreams with us; she even tries to sing while stuffing her face with Sachertorte .

Fallis is a game comedienne and an accomplished singer, and the combination made for a generally goofy, if decidedly uneven, evening of middle-low musical comedy. The general tone of the show is self-deprecating--"Aren’t we opera singers a loopy lot?"--and also lightly (too lightly) parodic of the formats and trappings of operatic performance.

The first half of Fallis’ excursion makes stops at seminal points in her fictional diva’s life: the first song (at age 2 1/2), the first music contest (she still detests the winner) and thence to her current lofty status as Canada’s most celebrated divissima --"something of a contradiction in terms,” as Fallis/Primadonna confessed. All through this half, Fallis’ winning smirk, wide range of vocal expressions and tightly written gags keep matters moving along gigglingly.

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It’s in the second half--devoted to a more frontal assault on operatic practice--that the tempo bogs down. There’s a lot more straight singing, and since Fallis (unlike Russell) can really sing, that’s not at all a bad thing. But a misfired attempt to contemporize Lucia di Lammermoor’s mad scene and a rather lame parody of all those tired “Gala Vienna Nights” interrupted the tidy comic beat.

Still, there are enough titters to keep one’s attention, and Fallis makes “Primadonna” an evening worth perfecting. Her three-night engagement at Loyola Marymount ends tonight.


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