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Philadelphia Theatre Company Golden Age is Good as Gold

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Photo credit – Mark GarvinThe passionate world of opera comes to life in Philadelphia Theatre Company's world premiere of Terrence McNally's Golden Age on January 22 - February 14. Directed by Austin Pendleton, the production features the ensemble cast of Rebecca BrooksherJeffrey Carlson, Roe Hartrampf, Mark KudischHoon Lee, Christopher Michael McFarland, Dante Mignucci, and Amanda Mason Warren.

Golden Age is set in 1835 Paris. The most glittering audience imaginable has gathered for the world premiere of Vincenzo Bellini's latest opera, I Puritani. On the other side of the curtain are the composer and the four greatest singers in the world, the legendary Puritani Quartet. When the music begins, history will be made.

A rare glimpse of the antics and episodes that take place in the green room backstage of a Parisian Opera House with four high strung Italian opera singers and the neurotic composer who penned the score. The story never leaves the room and has no reason to do so as the elite, egotistical quartet, ponder and parade about between arias and costume changes.

While the storyline is about the opening of Bellini’s newest creation, the focal point is clearly on the composer, brilliantly played by Jeffrey Carlson whose every move captures the angst of a tortured soul who labors through the entire performance undecided if he is a genius or a madman, of which he is both.

The principle cast; Rebecca Brooksher (Giulia Grisi), Roe Hartrampf (Francesco Florimo), Christopher Michael McFarland (Giovanni BattistaRubini), Marc Kudisch (Antonio Tamburini), Hoon Lee (Luigi Lablache), Amanda Mason Warren (Maria Malibran), and George Morfogen) Gioacchino Rossini offer an entertaining, while not entirely engaging mix of characters with one common denominator; their ballooned egos, each reluctantly revealing what is in their hearts between their entrance cues.   

Maria Maliban (Warren), deemed the goddess of the Opera world,  presents a beautiful performance which enchants the audience and bewitches her colleagues and rivals onstage with painfully touching moments between she and the fragile Bellini and the insecure soprano Grisi. But it is Kudisch’s macho, over amorous portrayal of Tamburini that adds delight and much needed comic relief throughout the production. NOTE: wash your fruit before eating because you’ll never guess where Tamburini’s been hiding it!

Simple yet impressive sets of cascading silk draperies and chandeliers against the stark wooden backstage stairs and entrances and luminous pastel lighting enhance the mood of the Bel Canto music constantly heard in the background. As Bellini drifts in and out of moments of raging tantrums and numbing melancholy, wringing his hands and pacing the floor, he always knows exactly what part of the opera is being seen and heard, while obsessing over the appearance of his rival, composer Rossini.

Based on a true story, Vincenzo Bellini gave his audience melodies of soul bearing frankness with rose tinted sadness, the hallmark of his persona. Revered by his peers, “You are a genius, Bellini, but you will pay for your great gift with a premature death. All the great geniuses died very young, like Raphael and Mozart,” quoted German composer Heinrich Heine as a party joke. Bellini, a delicate flower of the opera, having won the hearts of Paris died just nine months after the Opening of I Puritani.

"Terrence's lifelong passion for opera makes Golden Age a particularly exciting project to work on and we are honored that both he and The Kennedy Center entrusted us to help develop this new play," said Sara Garonzik, PTC's Producing Artistic Director. To have Golden Age and Master Class running at The Kennedy Center is an especially proud and meaningful event for Philadelphia Theatre Company, and we have Terrence McNally to thank for the privilege."

Scenic Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jason Lyons, Costumes by Richard St. Clair, Directed by Austin Pendelton

Following Golden Age's run in Philadelphia, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will present Terrence McNally's Nights at the Opera - an event showcasing three of the playwright's works including Master Class, The Lisbon Traviata, and Golden Age concurrently in Kennedy Center theaters from March 12 - April 19, 2010. 

 Performances of Golden Age run Tuesday through Sunday until February 14. Tickets are $46-59, with discounts for students, seniors and groups. Tickets are available by calling the PTC Box Office at 215-985-0420 or visiting their websitePhiladelphia Theatre Company's Suzanne Roberts Theatre is located at Broad and Lombard Streets.

Philadelphia Theatre Company is in its third season at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre This new state-of-the-art venue on Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts was built as the result of an innovative partnership between PTC and Philadelphia developer Carl Dranoff. 

For further information on Philadelphia Theatre Company, call 215-985-0420 or visit PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.

 

 

Photo Caption 1:
Rebecca Brooksher as Grisi in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s world
premiere of Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally's Golden
Age. Running from January 22 to February 14 at the Suzanne Roberts
Theatre, Golden Age explores the exquisite and passionate world of
opera.