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Open: 03/23/13- Close: 03/24/13 Le Médecin Malgré Lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself)
Reviewed for By: Minda Larsen

 Utopia Unlimited Opera Company is one of a handful of what I like to call “Indie” Opera Companies that have sprung up in New York City over the past few years. Utopia Unlimited strives to entertain the modern audience, performing little, or rarely known works in a contemporary light. Their recent production, Gounod's comic opera: Le Médecin Malgré Lui was a New York City premiere in that it was performed in it's original French. The script, however, originally with text by Moliere, was revamped into a “new English dialogue libretto”.  For the most part, Utopia Unlimited’s rendition proved a delightful success.  

From the first scene, it is not difficult to see why this opera is rarely performed: the scene consists of a drunken, dim-witted woodcutter, Sganarelle, beating his wife. Not exactly the stuff of “comic” opera, no? Furthermore, his wife then claims to like being beat?! It’s a bit difficult for an audience to swallow. In this case,  however, it appears the audience did just that, and was fully engrossed by the storyline. It is opera, after all, so an audience expects an element of altered reality.  

This modern version of the opera was charming and surprising. I would argue that a more literal translation of the script would have served the production well, however. Some humor was a bit off-color and came across as more self-serving than serving the story. That being said, the cast was entirely devoted to their characters and to “telling” the story. William Remmers enthusiastically played Sganarelle, the woodcutter. Mr. Remmers also served as Stage and Music Director; quite a feat for any man.  Mr. Remmer’s direction was quite good: the characters clear, the spacing and “pictures’ on stage consistent and exciting, and the overall pace of the show lively.

The musicianship of the entire cast was very good. Indeed the ensemble singing was a highlight of the performance. Peter Fancovic, listed only as "accompanist" in the program was exceptional and carried the pacing and complexities of Gounod's score brilliantly. 

Mr. Remmer’s Woodcutter was a full-bodied, gallant portrayal, though at times a bit wild and inconsistent. However, it must be noted that Mr. Remmers has accomplished a remarkable feat; in starring, directing, musical directing, and translating an opera for the New York stages. Bravo, Mr. Remmers for your ambition and devotion to this project!

I would argue, however, that in future performances, and perhaps with an expanded budget, allocating some of these roles to others would serve the company well. A more collaborative production team, I think, would prove to iron out any inconsistencies in script and performance. 

The cast contained particular standout performances:

Eva Parr was the delicious milkmaid, and possesses a lovely, warm mezzo.

Michael O’Hearn was quite charming and convincing as the wealthy father.

Megan Marod was hilarious and adorable as the love stricken daughter, and when she finally used her voice, sang with a clear, radiant soprano.

Credit must be given to the entire cast for a successful ensemble production: it was clean, clever and quirky!

Keep an eye out for future performances from this promising young company. Utopia Unlimited possesses the ambition, daring, and talent to ensure the young company’s success.

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