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|A CurtainUp Review
La Gran Scena Opera Company's Vera . . . Life of a Diva
Viva La Diva! It was one Valhalla of an evening as Vera Galupe-Borszkh (Ira Siff) and her companions provided us with an evening of opera spoofing hilarity. From the falsetto induced labor through the childhood memories of life in a "peesa hut" to the final moments in the Villa Costa Troppo, we are brought through the lifetime of this delightfully outrageous, yet deliciously "traumatic" soprano. Briefly , Vera was married to the bel canto expert Manual Galupe (Keith Jurosko) who was the last living "castrato." Vera concludes, "A diva having a husband already castrato saves a lot of time." Manual had the misfortune/fortune of dying on their honeymoon! One of the most amusing sequences was the La Gran Scena of Samson et Dalila. Samson, played by the tenor Bruno Focaccia (in real life Patrick Jones), enters the scene as a superman Hasid plagued by Jewish guilt as he succumbs to the temptress Dalila, played by Vera Galupe-Borszkh. What Vera does with a banana is beyond description. With the help of kosher chicken soup with matzoh balls, Manischewitz Matzohs, and poisoned kosher wine, she conquers her prey.
Philene Wannelle (Philip Koch) with her versatile singing voice provides a wonderful sidekick to Vera. Having been discovered as she performed in the Miss America pageant, she went on to earn her reputation, an appellation inspired by the Grand Canal.
According to the Great Vera, there are four stages to a Diva's life: Bel Canto, Can Belto, Can't Belto and Non Canto. And, what does a diva do when she has reached the final stage? She teaches. In what is probably the highlight of the evening for most, we are presented with a deliriously funny master class. Here we are shown what Kavatina Turner (Kyle Church Cheseborough) can do with Adriana Lecouvreur. With shaking knees displayed in orange tights, she has no trouble in reaching that A flat.
Besides the fun, there is great musical talent here. From pun to parody, from soprano to mezzo to tenor, these performers are terrific. Mention must be made of Keith Jurosko's Sylvia Bills, along with his delightful performances as An Announcer and Manuel Galupe. One can never forget the riotous second act Tosca spoof nor can one forget the image of Kavatina Turner as she plays Cio-cio- San from the "endless" Madame Butterfly. I can even forgive the very long first act for I
might have been denied some chuckles had it been shortened. Todd Sisley as the Maestro Lorenzo Costalotta-Denaro is a talented newcomer to La Gran Scena. This is his second season as Musical Director. As costume Designers, Penny Luedtke, Susan Soedaert and Ken Yount provide the perfect comic clothing accompaniment to the production. Oh that Viennese curtain opening to that Manon skirt! Can one ever forget those American flags sticking out from Madame Butterfly's coiffure?
One need not be an opera buff to thoroughly enjoy this troupe - in fact one might even develop a taste for the opera after one performance by these madcap performers. This is the 16th year for La Gran Sena; may it live to be 120!