The Glimmerglass Festival’s third of eight performances of Gioachino Rossinis semi-serious opera La gazza ladra(The Thieving Magpie), seen July 25, is a feast for the eyes, ears, even the intellect. The story addresses employer-employee relations, class distinctions, misjudgment, preconceived notions and foregone conclusions. (Two items go missing, so wealthy family members assume their servant took them.) The inventive music delights the ears. And thanks to Set and Costume Designer Myung Hee Cho’s fanciful concept, strikinglystrange sights constantly change before your very eyes.

Talented lineup.

New and veteran artists collaborate as an ensemble:

  • Soprano Rachele Gilmore’s warm, golden voice does every pyrotechnical coloratura trick imaginable with astonishing accuracy, facility and dexterity. Despite the fanciful design concept, she depicts Ninetta Villabella’s life-and-death predicament with credibility.
  • Tenor Michele Angelini is Gianetto Vingradito, Ninetta’s romantic lead. He is a sympathetic actor. The voice is fantastically agile, broad and “open,” not tight and pinched or nasal like some of the best Rossinians out there.
  • Bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana’s resonantly booming voice commands attention. His coloratura technique is impeccable. As sinister, sadistic, lecherous Mayor Gottardo, he could be much more fierce, and his vocal authority would certainly sustain moreferocityin the role.
  • Mezzo-soprano Allegra De Vita in the trouser role of Pippo is outstanding, deploying a plush, mellifluous voice that blends and harmonizes perfectly with other principals and the ensemble of roughly 15 other participants from the Young Artist program. She is on track for a major stage career.
  • Bass-baritone Dale Travis as Ninetta’s father sounded taxed, compared to his delightful vocal display the night before as Benoit and Alcindoro in Puccini’s La bohème. Perhaps overly tired, his acting, nevertheless, is earnest as the father who continually gets his daughter in trouble.
  • Bass-baritone Calvin Griffin turns in a solid performance as Fabrizio Vingradito, in whose home the two thefts occur, incriminating Ninetta. It will be good to hear him someday in a major role.
  • Mezzo-soprano Leah Hawkins, as Lucia Vingradito, has a larger-than-life stage presence, yet an underpowered, though rich voice, at times covered by the orchestra.
  • Tenor Brad Raymond is appropriately creepy as Isacco, singing with a speech impediment, and hilarious as Antonio the jailer. Bass Simon Dyer is an eccentric Giorgio who resembles the figure in Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream,” but with vivid fuchsia and orange eye shadow. Bass-baritone Thomas Shivone as the Magistrate projects solemn dark tones while incongruously behaving quite birdlike.

Speaking of ‘for the birds’

The design concept is totally avian.

Actress Meg Gillentine in the title role has the grace, stance, tentative gait, blank stare and quick head movements of an emu. In most of Act I she is in and out of an enormous birdcage stage left, where she keeps a bird’s eye on all the goings-on. Her performance begins well before Act I, when she, fully in character, wanders among ticket holders, fixing them with a blank birdlike stare, approaching some suddenly in mildly startling face-to-face proximity and otherwise preening.

As choreographer, she truly knows how to cut the rug. By micromanaging gestures, facial expressions, body movements and stance, she remarkably has gotten principals, secondary characters and ensemble moving as one, like a gaggle of graceful yet idiosyncratic migrating geese. Everyone displays some degree of avian characteristics, particularly among the minor roles, whether discreet feather adornment in hairpieces or as abundant costume trim all the way to nearly complete plumage.

Festival Music Director Joseph Colaneri conducted a rousing performance of this charming needs-to-be-heard-more score.

The Thieving Magpie, by Gioachino Rossini, till August 25, at The Glimmerglass Festival. Don’t miss it.

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