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MUSIC REVIEW : Concert Opera Performs 'Gypsy Baron'


It was only 2 o'clock on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, but evening gowns and black tie were the costume of the occasion when Los Angeles Concert Opera gave an unstaged performance of Johann Strauss the Second's "Gypsy Baron."

The Ambassador Auditorium stage in Pasadena held more than half a hundred musicians for this annual presentation. In an afternoon of able, if apparently underrehearsed, singing, the main disappointment came from the podium.

George Fritthum, making his Southern California conducting debut, showed clear competence but weak leadership skills. The young Viennese musician--a violinist with both the Vienna Philharmonic and the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera--certainly displayed few strong opinions and even less musical compulsion about one of the most charming and melodious scores in the operetta repertory.

Fritthum gave few cues, indeed, seldom looked at his nine principals--lined up across the front of the stage for musical duty, but usually left to their own, inexperienced devices.

He coaxed few thrills from a game young instrumental ensemble, named the International Chamber Orchestra of the Idyllwild School of Music, which sounded as inconsistent and promising as most training orchestras of its character and age. And he failed to get the most sound and performing energy out of the 26 singers of the Roger Wagner Chorale Institute.

The principals showed genuine and healthy voices and considerable promise.

Most healthy, and most promising were Jennifer Trost, who seemed indisposed but sang splendidly and fearlessly most of the time (in odd moments, she became unaccountably timid) as Saffi; John Atkins, authoritative and wonderfully resonant as Homonay; Michele Patzakis, a confident and agile Arsena, and Earle Patriarco, a jolly, booming Zsupan

Debbie Cree (Mirabella), Dennis McNeil (Barinkay), Stephen Grimm (Carnero), Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos and Melody Rossi (Czipra) also performed ably, and with good humor.

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