MUSIC REVIEW : Concert Opera Revives 'Csardas Princess'

For its annual foray into the nether regions of operas (and operettas) past, the Los Angeles Concert Opera Association this year chose the 1915 Viennese confection "Die Csardasfurstin" by Emmerich Kalman, sung in English as "The Csardas Princess."

This was revival on a shoestring Sunday afternoon at Ambassador Auditorium, semi-staged, sort-of costumed and with no sets to speak of, just a couple of tables and champagne glasses to suggest backstage or ballroom ambience, as need be.

The point of this production, as directed by Loren Zachary (who also supplied the English translation), was really just to get the theatrical necessities into place in order to have a good listen to the ditty-filled, waltz-driven score (last heard locally at Opera Pacific in 1992). The throngs showed up for the privilege.

The plot? Something of an embarrassment, really, concerning a Viennese prince who falls in love with a lowly Hungarian cabaret girl and the feints and dodges required to bring about the never-in-doubt happy ending.

Luckily, a number of fresh young voices had been enlisted for the leading roles and Todd Helm ably conducted a small and occasionally rough but very willing and stylish pit orchestra. None of it was the last word in elegance, perhaps, but charm made regular appearances.

After a shrilly amplified first act, the microphones were turned down and it was easier to appreciate the voices. The acting, especially during the spoken dialogue, may have been stilted but the singing wasn't bad. Soprano Laurel Boyd gave rich, ample voice to the cabaret star Sylva and captured the spirit of her Csardas dance music. Tenor Steven Dunham was a sweet and mellifluous Prince Edwin.

Tony Antista offered a solid, clear Count Boni and Megan Weston a chirping, pleasing Stasi. Brad McMurray provided a nice comic turn (and ringing baritone) as Prince Leopold, the ballerina-loving hypocrite, singing one of two interpolated songs from Kalman's "The Circus Princess."

The 14-voice chorus, directed by Theodore Crain, proved sturdily sonorous and well rehearsed.

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