The roster of performers in 10 adult roles and three juvenile ones is quite superb. Six of the roles are double-cast in this production, so I missed some singers I would like to have heard as a result of attending the opening night. Special praise is due to that night's singer in the title role, the clear-voiced tenor William Ottow. Friday night's Lady Billows, Jessica Kasinski, has a truly powerful soprano voice and personality, though I think I would like just a bit more of the patrician than the blatant blusterer in the part.
Generally speaking, the cast was outstanding not only for singing, but for acting. Under Ronis's guidance, they capture no end of comic nuances both individually and in interaction with each other.
Praise is due, too, for really excellent sets, taking good advantage of the old UW Music Hall stage, and the costumes are likewise designed aptly. Britten reduced his orchestra to a versatile chamber group of 12 players. Under the baton of Kyle Knox, they play with notable expertise, although at times I was bothered by a little of that old bugaboo, the overriding of the singers.
For his debut production, Ronis has made one significant decision: Opting not to use surtitles running with the action. His argument has been that this will encourage the singers to sharpen their diction, while avoiding distraction to the audience. There is a case to be made for this choice; the singers certainly did work to project their words. Nevertheless, in high voices many words are simply going to be lost, and in this work there is so much going on verbally that a lot was blurred or buried. I would call the results mixed.
Whatever your opinion on the point, however, take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a rare operatic work in a most enjoyable presentation. It will be repeated on at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28.