Notes and Editorial Reviews
The producers had the wonderful idea of beginning the (otherwise stereo) disc with the original 1939 NBC Radio introduction—a lovely touch, and one that if you don’t like you may easily skip. Recorded sound is clear and warm.
The Old Maid and the Thief
Victoria Bond, cond; Nicole Franklin (
); Natalie Arduino (
Parr Mock (
); Blake Davidson (
); Lone Springs Arts O of Dallas
ALBANY TROY 990 (68:15
Text and Translation)
What a delight! The 27- year-old Menotti was commissioned by the NBC Radio Network in 1939 to write an opera specifically for radio—the first such commission ever. The result was this absolutely delightful, tuneful work that set out for the world to hear the promise that Menotti would fulfill for generations to come.
I believe that there was a recording from about 40 years ago, but I don’t own it and could not track it down for comparison (and if you don’t own it, you probably won’t find it either—even an Internet search failed to locate it). That makes this a very important release, especially so because the performance is delightful and the opera is absolutely charming, and then some.
It is an opera buffa, but as is often the case with Menotti there are bittersweet undertones to the plot and the music. Very briefly stated, the plot concerns a middle-aged lady (Miss Todd) and her maid Leaticia, who live in an unidentified small town in the United States. The only thing missing in their lives is a man, and along comes a drifter named Bob. They take him in, each trying to woo him, and then learn from the neighborhood busybody Miss Pinkerton that a notorious thief has escaped from jail. All assume that is Bob—but the two ladies decide they want to retain his company anyhow, and Miss Todd begins to steal from the neighbors in order to keep him supplied with money. Bob, as you might guess, is
the thief, just an honest vagabond. When confronted, though, Miss Todd lays the blame on Bob—which, in turn, forces him to escape. He does this by ransacking her house, taking off with her car, and her maid Leaticia. Thus the moral of Menotti’s opera: “The devil couldn’t do what a woman can: make a thief of an honest man!”
The high point of the opera is Leaticia’s aria, a heart-wrenching and deeply felt song of loneliness. Bob’s aria is a strong piece too, and overall the opera holds together very well. Because it was written for radio, included is a narrator who keeps the plot moving along (well spoken here by Jon Morehouse).
The recording is very good—singing is at a high level throughout, and Victoria Bond invests Menotti’s score with plenty of color and energy. The producers had the wonderful idea of beginning the disc with the original 1939 NBC Radio introduction—a lovely touch, and one that if you don’t like you may easily skip. Recorded sound is clear and warm—perhaps favoring the singers a bit unnaturally. I’d like to hear Menotti’s orchestra just a bit more fully. On the other hand, the clarity of the voices helps us to understand the text without needing much help from the provided libretto. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Works on This Recording
The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian Carlo Menotti
Lynn Parr Mock (Soprano),
Nicole Franklin (Soprano),
Blake Davidson (Baritone),
Jon Morehouse (Spoken Vocals),
Natalie Arduino (Mezzo Soprano)
Lone Springs Arts
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1939; USA
Featured Sound Samples
The Old Maid and the Thief: Overture
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