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'Festa Italiana' Delivers Varied Repertory at Bowl

July 22, 1996|DANIEL CARIAGA

Unhackneyed to a fault, John Mauceri's mixture of music by Italian composers, called "Festa Italiana" and given twice over the weekend by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Cahuenga Pass, turned out to be a program with several subtexts.

One dealt with fireworks, which spectacularly appeared during the ensemble's spiffy and untroubled playing of Respighi's "Pines of Rome" at the end of the evening.

Another hinted at the saga of crime families; it brought together excerpts from film scores by Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone. At the top of the proceedings, for instance, Mauceri led an unprogrammed run-through of music from Morricone's score for "The Untouchables."

Vocal and operatic music by Verdi, Giordano, De Curtis and Puccini added a third level of Italian culture to the agenda.

On Friday night, not all of these performances achieved the smoothness of the "Pines of Rome" traversal, which featured strong ensemble playing and splendid solos. But the hugely varied repertory kept the listener amused, if not consistently uplifted.

American opera singers Diana Soviero and Richard Leech dominated the middle third of this program, between Crimeland and fireworks. Soviero is a talented veteran of many operatic skirmishes; her scars may not show, but her top notes are diminished. Still, she sings with heart and great effectiveness and one does not go away from her performances untouched.

With Leech an apparently distracted Lt. Pinkerton, Soviero brought much sense to the Love Duet that ends Act I of "Madama Butterfly," despite an orchestral accompaniment that lacked detail and thrust. The soprano's singing of "La mamma morta," from "Andrea Chenier" drew stronger support from her instrumental colleagues.

Pleading (through conductor Mauceri) vocal troubles related to the outdoor air, Leech proceeded to sing carefully and disappointingly through all his music, which included "Non ti scordar di me" and "Torna a Surriento," songs not exactly benefiting from restraint.

Nonetheless, the singers and conductor looked pleased with themselves and took an encore, "O Sole Mio," before the Respighi suite lit up the sky with pyrotechnics.

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