Buffalo Opera Unlimited, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a lyrical Mozart festival, has learned that, if you need two high-strung and oh-so-competitive divas, go to Niagara County.
It will present, in English, an adaptation of Mozart’s “The Impresario,” a short, one-act and rather absurd opera on the topic of two women vying for a singing job, and the producer who becomes something of their victim, in two performances this weekend at the acoustically stellar 710 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, the performance venue formerly known as the Studio Arena Theater. The Friday evening and Sunday afternoon performances of this showbiz sendup, written in 1786 and first sung in English in 1857, will feature sopranos Amy Teal of Lewiston and Karen D’Angelo of Lockport.
D’Angelo is Madame Heartmelt and Teal plays the newcomer, Mademoiselle Warblewell, and the entire opera is one of can-you-top-this high notes between these two (tenor Christopher Wietig plays the put-upon Mr. Cash, and these are names with which Mozart blessed them).
The real impresario of Buffalo Opera Unlimited is artistic director Tim Kennedy, who said of his dueling divas, “They’re auditioning for the impresario; he’s more like a referee. It’s funny and it’s short, but the music is hard. They’re singing notes above high C; it’s an opportunity to show off when they compete against each other.”
The battling sopranos, Teal and D’Angelo, are Niagara County high school music teachers with plenty of experience on the stage.
Teal studied at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, has taught voice at Niagara County Community College and at Buffalo State College. She has performed at Artpark and with O’Connell and Company, Buffalo’s Opera Sacra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I’m having fun,” she says of “The Impresario,” “mocking sopranos for being divas.” Her attitude suggests the performance is perfect for those who know little about opera but know what’s funny.
D’Angelo graduated from SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Buffalo and has studied at Eastman and at Buffalo State. Her classes in Lockport include directing jazz ensembles and teaching Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” to seventh-graders.
“It’s fun, and funny. It’s a farce. I get to do that diva attitude,” she says of her role. “I’m the leading prima donna, on stage for the entire opera, (and) Madame Warblewell (Teal) is very jealous, vying for the prima donna.”
If this sounds similar to the plot device in any episode of “Three’s Company,” you get the idea. It’s an opportunity for some show-off singing and for nailing some comic timing. Hard work, but the stars are enjoying themselves.
The three-person opera, followed by a recital of classic arias and duets from other Mozart works, will feature a 13-piece ensemble of musicians.
Western New York has a dedicated core of opera supporters, although they find more recitals than start-to-finish operas. “The Impresario,” relatively short at about 30 minutes, is an ideal way to see what the fuss is about, and although the art form is burdened with an image wrapped in tuxedos and evening gowns, Buffalo Opera Unlimited has long made an effort to present a populist approach to something many view as intriguing but unapproachable. The presentations this weekend make fun of some of the very things that make some people anxious about a night at the opera. Don’t be afraid; be prepared for some remarkable singing showmanship.