The first Pagliacci reviews are in, and they’re not glowing — they’re incandescent.
They came first from our schoolkid guests at dress rehearsal. “Thank you very much for the opportunity you gave my students, especially in meeting Mr. Pulliam,” wrote chorus teacher Erica Williams of North Miami Middle School. “They enjoyed the experience tremendously! They have been raving about it all day! Some of them were so emotionally moved by the phenomenal voices displayed on the stage. They had very strong thoughts about the different characters of the show . . . I could not have asked for a better experience for my students to have. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for providing this memorable experience for my students.”
Then they came from our opening night and Sunday matinee audience members, who tagged us in videos of the standing, screaming ovations, in Facebook and Instagram posts, and in private messages.
“Today I saw Limmie Pulliam’s SPECTACULAR performance as Canio in Florida Grand Opera’s production of I pagliacci by Leoncavallo – I was moved to tears!! Bravo to Mr. Pulliam and the rest of the amazing cast!” Emily Rose Mandel, a local voice teacher and music coordinator at Temple Beth Tikvah, wrote on her Facebook page.
“Haven’t seen such an enthusiastic crowd in a while!! They absolutely went wild for Limmie Pulliam’s Canio, as well as the entire cast!” wrote Sarah Fraser, an opera agent with Fletcher Artists Management after opening night.
“The opening was a triumph!” enthused jkam128 on Instagram.
The first print review comes from Lawrence Budmen at South Florida Classical Review. What did he think? Read for yourself:
“(Jeffrey) Buchman’s expansion of the score brings even greater entertainment value for the audience … Buchman’s production was an eye-filling visual delight…Buchman managed to play the melodrama for all it was worth, giving the characters depth and substance.”
“ …(Limmie) Pulliam was impressive and moving in the role. Like the silent movie stars of long yesteryear, Pulliam’s facial expressions conveyed a huge emotional range from joy, humor and happiness to heartbreak and murderous rage… Above all, Pulliam’s tenor is the authentic article. His top range exudes power without strain or breaks between registers.”
“Kearstin Piper Brown was a perky Nedda with a shiny vocal top and a dusky, mezzo-like lower register. Her birdsong aria ‘Stridono lassù’ glistened and enchanted…”
“As the deformed clown Tonio, Robert Mellon unfurled a large, voluminous baritone. Singing his Prologue from the audience, Mellon’s warm timbre matched Leoncavallo’s rhapsodic burst of melody… In a role often played as a stock villain, Mellon offered a fully realized, complex portrayal.”
“In the brief but important role of Silvio, Eleomar Cuello’s deep baritone proclaimed a potentially major operatic career. His dark sound blended wonderfully with Brown in their duet and his stage presence proved potent, even as he watched the tragic turn of events from the village audience. “
“Joseph McBrayer’s polished lyric tenor made Beppe’s Serenade a highlight of the play scene and he sang the inserted “Non ti scordar di me” with idiomatic fervor and a natural sense of pulse and line.”
“Conductor Gregory Buchalter drew playing of exceptional brilliance and subtlety from the orchestra. He brought a light, deft touch to the commedia music and drew clarity and coordination from the chorus (under director Jared Peroune) in the crowd scenes.”
“With a stilt walker and Rosa Mercedes’ fetching choreography, the curtain-raising first scene was entrancing. Natanael Leal, Glenn Moretti and, especially, Emily Ricca were the high-stepping, agile dancers. “
“David P. Gordon’s picture-book set (from Sarasota Opera), Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s multi-hued costumes and Rick Fisher’s dramatic lighting all contributed to this freshly conceived presentation of an operatic staple.”
There’s one more chance to catch I pagliacci in Miami — tomorrow night, Tuesday January 30 at 8 p.m. at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. There are two performances in Fort Lauderdale: February 8 and 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available at fgo.org or by calling 800.741.1010. Don’t miss your chance to run away to the circus!