Letter From Italy I


Having missed posting last night from a confluence of circumstances, here are two entries. This one went up in  April 2013, but the great Blue wipeout swallowed it.

The second will be an account of the film based on the oratorio.

The Oratorio

Larry and I had the pleasure of spending Sunday afternoon entranced by the Greater Middletown Chorale’s premiere of Letter from Italy, 1944: A soldier’s story told in music. We’ve been following the buildup to the April 28 performance.

The result was more than worth the wait. Nancy Meneely’s lyrics and her sister Sarah Meneely-Kyder’s music paid glorious tribute to the life of their father who went into World War II as a doctor for the Tenth Mountain Division.

The enormous and enormously talented Chorale provided brilliant support for the principals: Jack Anthony Pott as John Meneely and Patricia Schuman as his wife Delia Marshall Meneely. Their voices formed a perfect blend in duet and soared to magical heights in their solos. My favorite was “Away,” which crystallizes John’s longing for Delia: “When I lie down around the curve night/and soldiers sleep, yours are the fingers of my dream/that splay like leaves at the base of my head.”

The visual effects, projected behind the singers, added to the passion and the horror: pictures of the young couple at their wedding and later with their daughters; a moving video of Pott as Meneely walking through woods to the piece “Size,” about his love of nature; war photos including dead bodies stiffened at odd angles in the snow, and a pair of bloody boots that come to haunt John Meneely’s life.

A couple of quibbles. The two-hour performance could have used a judicious trim. The dramatic arc needs to heighten the conflict between John and Delia. And the crucial information that John Meneely was Dr. Meneely before he joined the Army needs to be established before we see the red cross on his kit. Even though the program included a libretto it was too dark to follow along. Everyone I spoke to wished for an electronic libretto, maybe back of the seat à la opera since projection on the screen would have interfered with the visual effects.

Finally two brags: Staff Sergeant Larry Riley was one of the hundreds of veterans honored in the sixteen-page Honor Roll of Veterans. And among the Producer Circle donors ($5,000 – $9,000) was the Ann and George Petry Fund, along with the Arts Fund, administered by the Community Foundation. I know Mother and Daddy would be thrilled.

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