St. Thomas Aquinas professed that one can sin by excess or by deficiency. The Festival d’Aix-en-Provence’s Alcina may have many virtues, but its sin is definitely excess. Katie Mitchell’s addresses precisely the key issue in what regards baroque “magic operas” – the notion that women have to charm a man. Alcina and Morgana are not ordinary women; they are sorceresses, i.e., they have special powers. However, they may transform people in animals and conjure lifelike visions, but – most inexplicably – they cannot find someone who loves them, like ordinary women do. In spite of all their qualities. The obvious answer is: man are blind to their natural qualities, so they have to make believe that they have the desirable requirements in order to attract them. Do you need to go to Ariosto to see that? No, when women cease to be young, aren’t they made to believe that they have to resort to every available trick (make-up, special diets, exercise routines, plastic surgery, implants, you name it…) to create the illusion of youth? So here we have two elderly women who have the power to look young and attractive in very special circumstances: in one room of their house, the bedroom, where they are ready to perform any sexual prowess to keep their “victims” under their spell.

The trick is done by a very ingenuous stage device – both doors to this bedroom are thick enough to hide a passage to the area behind the a scenic wall. Thus, when the actresses playing the old Alcina and Morgana step in the threshold, the singers cast as the young Alcina and Morgana quickly come through the hidden passage and appear on the other side, and vice-versa. To make it more interesting, the adjoining rooms are not glamorously decorated as the bedroom, but are workshop-like greyish places with industrial lighting where both sorceress work on stuffed animals (which stand for the men transformed by their spells). On the second floor, we can see the lab where the transformation is performed by a machine. Naturally, the set is too complex for changes. Therefore, all scenes have to take place in these rooms, for some awkward effects: characters discuss their plans to destroy Alcina’s magic realm while she is just in the next room. Too often characters have to look in only one direction not to see something obviously in front of them. Another side effect is: since this is a single set and this is a long opera, variety is provided by a group of extras playing Alcina’s servants – they enter, grab an object, put it somewhere, exit, come back, grab the same object, put it somewhere else and exit again etc etc. Most of the time, they just walk slow motion through the sceneries. Why? Actually, the great problem with the stage trick is: it is complex (and that is why it is so good) but its very complexity simply does not afford a second trick. For instance, since the singing Alcina is the young one, she sings, for instance, Mi restano le lagrime, alone and powerless, but looking like a million bucks.

At any rate, my problem are not the stage devices. Katie Mitchell makes an important question here, but does not bother to answer. Or to try to answer. Alcina is shown as a lonely and sorry seductress, but still a seductress, a woman who came to no good. As far as I know, everybody gets old. Not only sorceresses. Bradamante too will get old – and, considering her fiancé’s spiritual depth, she will use all the tricks on her sleeve to seem attractive, if she still wants have something to do with him. Actually, she is already doing this, isn’t she? She conjures a magic word, “a promise”, and a magic power , “morality” to charm a man not really willing to be with her. This is where I do not get why the production draws a line. All right, the director makes a point in showing that they are not going to be happy, but, really, everybody knew that from the beginning. All in all, the insight is powerful enough, the staging is clever enough, the sets and costumes are eye-catching and the Personenregie is faultless. I’ve had fun.

Patricia Petibon repeats in every interview that her voice is developing towards bigger things and she has a point. The catch is how big “big” is. Her soprano sounds indeed fuller, richer in its lower riches and capable of some expansion in her high notes. All that without any loss of firmness and brightness. In her present vocal condition, the role of Alcina is indeed within her powers, but the tessitura is low enough for a mezzo like Joyce DiDonato to sing it. This means, in many moments, it seats in the less congenial part of Ms. Petibon’s voice. You can still hear her, but the sound is not terribly expressive there. If a conductor like Marc Minkowski (i.e, a conductor who understand voices) were on duty, I am sure he would have guided his prima donna towards optimal results. The problem is Patricia Petibon is the kind of singer who likes to sin by excess – if her voice alone cannot do it, there is going to be some shouting, grotesque chest-resonance sounds, unwritten pauses, labored-breathing-effect, unstylish turns of phrase, the works… She won’t give up until she’ll have had it all out. Maybe it’s me, but I find it distracting. Even in a slimmer-toned shape, her Alcina would have met her goals by one very simple magic tool: trusting Handel’s inspiration. Karina Gauvin, not a force-of-nature even at her best, has done that in Beaune (2005?) and the results were moving. I found what I’ve heard today crafty.

Always at her best in baroque repertoire, Anna Prohaska had some beautiful moments as Morgana. She handles the Italian text admirably and could produce some pure-toned, exquisite phrases, especially in Credete al mio dolore. At other moments, she could be clumsy, miscalculating her breath support and either forcing her high notes or lacking steam for long high-lying passages. Tornami a vagheggiar was more mechanical than charming. Katarina Bradic, usually cast in minor roles at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, proved to have very long breath and very clear divisions, even in the really fast tempi for her arie di bravura. She sounds opaque around the passaggio and that jars with some cavernous low notes that do not always go with the affetto portrayed by Handel.

I am not convinced that the role of Ruggiero truly works for a countertenor. In terms of loveliness of tone, legato and fluent coloratura, Philippe Jaroussky is above his competition. He was the only member of the cast who could get away with overornamentation, offering a haunting Mi lusinga il dolce affetto and a touching Verdi prati, but was only partially audible in Stà nell’Ircana or Di te mi rido. He also pushed some high notes in a way that sounded dangerous to my ears. The part of Oronte remains to be properly cast – and this evening did not change that. Krzystof Baczyk (Melisso) has a very resonant and forceful voice, but his approach is too buffo for Pensa a chi geme. The boy soprano from the Tölzer Knabenchor did a commendable job as Oberto. Understandably, he was exempted from his third aria, which is dramatically pointless anyway.

Andrea Marcon presided over a rich-toned Freiburger Barockorchester, fully engaged and tonally varied. The conductor generally preferred fast tempi, giving practically no leeway for expression in the coloratura in some florid arias. He indulged the excess of ornamentation from his soloists and had a fondness for pauses and emphases that made Handel’s music less powerful in its expression. But that was rather the exception than the rule. The orchestral sound was clean and forceful, the continuo creatively and stylishly conceived and he and his singers seemed to be in complete understanding. The edition had very few excisions (including some in the opening sinfonia and the ballet) and the numbers shorn of their repeats were rewritten to end in the tonic key by means of a short orchestral comment or even by the repetition of a few verses.

Only twenty years ago, one would never fancy to see any of Claudio Monteverdi’s operas in an important opera house, but the increasing popularity of baroque music and (most probably) the colorful libretto of L’Incoronazione di Poppea has brought the work of this Italian composer to the general public in places like Paris* and Madrid. The less theatrically flamboyant L’Orfeo has not had the same luck. The Bavarian State Opera decided last year to take the lead by presenting a new staging cast from its own roster. The première conductor, Ivor Bolton, opted to be mostly faithful to the instrumental forces used by Monteverdi himself back in 1607. For that purpose, a continuo ensemble has been added to a group of members of the Bavarian State Orchestra.

For many, the main source of interest is the casting of the German Lieder-singing “superstar” Christian Gerhaher in the title role. This is a repertoire he is not usually associated to. I, for instance, have never heard him say let alone sing a word in a language other than German. I had very low expectations and, therefore, cannot truly vouch for my mostly positive impression: his Italian is not idiomatic, but more than acceptably delivered; his coloratura is not a model of accuracy, but is fluent and generally effortless; his purity of line stands for baroque style, except when he verges on veteran-Fischer-Dieskau-like hectoring in high and louder-than-piano passages (truth be said, rarely); his fastidiousness and lack of fondness for legato less problematic in this more declamatory music. At any rate, taking in consideration the variety of his repertoire and the difficulty of the task, one can easily deem this performance successful, especially from a baritone. His Euridice was the sensuous sounding Elsa Benoit, while Anna Stéphany was grainy yet sensitive and stylish as Musica and Speranza. Having Anna Bonitatibus as the Messaggera and Proserpina, however, had the effect of exposing the liability of the performance as a whole. Monteverdi’s music requires an absolute mastery of the natural rhythm of Italian language. This is particularly noticeable in florid passages, where inexpert ears fail to distinguish the “main” notes from embellishment. One just needs to turn to  Jordi Savall’s video where the not truly impeccable Furio Zanasi is rhythmically always right on the mark and therefore fully understandable even during extremely florid passages. Accordingly, Savall responds to his cast with more vivid and contrasted tempi and more expressive playing. But it would be unfair not to praise conductor Cristopher Moulds and his instrumentalists – this was stylish and beautiful music-making.

David Bösch’s imaginative production never ceased to offer the audience something to watch, by virtue of detailed stage direction to soloists and choristers and use of stage devices. His re-interpretation of the libretto is intelligent and subtle if very depressing. I only wish the lighting could add a little bit more difference between what goes in the world of the living and that of the dead. Unless this was a dramatic point I did not notice…

*It would be unfair to overlook the fact that the Opéra de Paris dared to stage it in 1978… with Gwyneth Jones, Jon Vickers, Christa Ludwig and Nicolai Ghiaurov.

Film director Andreas Dresen has been praised by his sensitive portraits of ordinary people’s lives generally from the former DDR (as the director himself). In his staging of Richard Strauss’s Arabella for the Bavarian State Opera, one can easily see the sensitive Personenregie in the thoroughly developed characterization from leading to minor roles. However, the aesthetics of a decadent imperial Vienna is here more reminiscent of the design behind the iron curtain than of the art direction in Charles Vidor’s The Swan. All right, the action is here set at some point of the XXth century, but I won’t be able to risk when, given the prevailing anachronism. Matthias Fischer-Dieskau’s sets are uninspired, uninspiring and remarkably ugly. They also look poorly finished. They are not half as problematic as Sabine Greunig’s horrendous costumes: Arabella has a missionary’s wife dress in act I, looks like a suburb cabaret singer in act II and has a leather motorcycle jacket ready for every entrance and exit. Accordingly, her father appears like a member of a rumba trio in his black-and-red outfit. One would feel tempted to close his or her eyes at some points, but the stage direction itself had plenty of interesting ideas, very well informed by the libretto. The episode with the glass of water in the closing scene alone offsets a great deal of the prevailing kitschfest – it sums up the director’s efficient grasp of the comical, psychological and philosophical elements in the libretto.

Although I often wished for better-defined articulation and a more crystalline sound from the orchestra, Philippe Jordan never failed to find the right tempo, the ideal balance between stage and pit and to produce rich and beautiful but never loud sonorities throughout. Whenever the conductor does not find the absolute clarity and thematic coherence required by the complex writing, the second half of act II seems a bit clumsy and pointless. Compared to what one usually hears live, the results were quite decent, but still below the illuminating guidance – alas, rarely – provided by the masterly baton of the likes of Sawallisch.

Although this is not Anja Harteros’s debut as Arabella (she has sang it recently in Dresden, to start with), it is a role she does not sing as usually as she should. The fact that is has been live-streamed by the Bayerische Rundfunk might make her take on the part known to a wider audience. Deservedly so, for she has today no rivals in this role. The writing fits her voice as a glove – she has no problem with the occasional visit to the lower end of her range, tackles the exposed high notes roundly and healthily and shades her soprano to mezza voce without flinching. She has a clear advantage over many a famous Arabellas: singing her own language, she handles the conversational passages with expert word-pointing, tone coloring and theatrical awareness. Some overlooked phrases sounded extraordinarily meaningful and sensitive. As every leading Straussian soprano, she surprised the audience with added glamor in a performance consistently elegantly phrased. I’ve had to think for a while to find something amiss, and I could save three lines in this review by saying that I found nothing. But I don’t have an editor and I’ll use them: if one thinks of Lisa della Casa or Kiri Te Kanawa, one would have the impression of a provocative reserve in attitude that made Arabella different from everyone else. Anja Harteros was more German than Austrian in her Arabella: she sounded absolutely sincere and involved. Considering her talents, it is an approach I can easily get used to.

Hanna-Elisabeth Müller was a most reliable Zdenka, her light, bell-toned soprano very much at ease with the excruciatingly high tessitura and surprisingly well-blended with Anja Hartero’s velvetier tone. She is certainly the best Zdenka I have ever seen (she also does look very convincingly boyish), but it has been a while since we have last heard an important voice à la Anneliese Rothenberger or Lucia Popp in that role. On purely acting terms, Joseph Kaiser was an interesting Matteo – the sexual frustration over Arabella and the puzzlement over the whole Zdenko/a affair finely portrayed – but the top register is entirely devoid of brightness (and I might be wrong, but his culminating high note in act III did not sound like a high b). At first, Thomas Johannes Mayer’s Mandryka sounded lacklustre in his lack of volume and tonal appeal, but he gradually grew in the part out of engagement, attention to the text and forceful top notes. Kurt Rydl was a powerful, funny Waldner, but Doris Soffel’s mezzo is a bit grating these days, what made her a rather uncongenial Adelaide. Eir Inderhaug deserves praise for producing a refreshingly non-cute Fiakermilli.

In the season in which Richard Strauss’s 150th birth anniversary is celebrated, the opera house in his birth city offers a treat for Straussians with three of his operas: Die schweigesame Frau, Arabella and Elektra. This first collaboration with Hugo von Hofmannsthal is a reprise of Herbert Wernicke’s 1997 production (as seen on video in Christian Thielemann’s DVD from Baden-Baden). As the director himself says, this staging eschews any attempt of characterization other than acting: the stage is practically empty, costumes are basic and there are two stage props (a royal robe in the style of the Bavarian State Opera curtain and, of course, the axe). As it is, with very little to see, one truly pays attention to what the singers are doing. This evening they were basically trying to guess which part of the stage the followspot would light and then jump onto it. Most singers seemed a bit at a loss figuring out what to do, the more gifted in the acting department doing their thing. The various examples of poor blocking suggest that there were not enough rehearsals for the cast to understand what they should do and – more important – why they were doing it. The closing scene looked almost unintentionally comic with all surviving members of Agamemnon’s family raising their arms for no particular reason while trying to make a tragedy face.

In terms of conducting, the performance seemed to be as reticent as it staging. Although the Bavarian State Orchestra produced rich and transparent sounds throughout, the conductor showed himself particularly reluctant in terms of pulse and forward movement. This libretto and this score abound in text and music that should simply erupt into sound. This evening, however, no firework in Strauss’s powerful score caught you by surprise: one could see the gunpowder being lighted, then count one, two and three to finally see the effect actually happen. On saying this, I do not mean that every performance of Elektra should sound like Georg Solti’s recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. On the contrary, by saying this, I mean the understanding of the musical-dramatic structural coherence that focus all recurrence of motives in their appropriate theatrical purpose. As it was, at some point, when the proceedings actually required some impact, Maestro Fisch finally forced his hand and brought about a brassy, unsubtle but not truly expressive sound in his otherwise excellent orchestra. To be honest, this performance’s best moment were invariably the more lyric passages (such as the Recognition Scene), when the beauty of the orchestral sound and the conductor’s consideration to his cast invariably paid off.

Although Evelyn Herlitzius took some time to warm up and, even then, she understandably shortened the difficult high c’s, she remains unparalleled in clarity of diction, understanding of the libretto and stamina. Although my memory of her 2011 performances in Berlin shows her then in more exuberant vocal health, I found that this industrious soprano proved to have never ceased to improve her singing in this role. This evening, I found her less prone to squalling than I would expect. Many high notes were roundly and goldenly sung and, to her own risk, she tried to produce softer dynamics in some dangerous passage, not always very successfully, truth be said. Her Chrysothemis was Adrianne Pierczonka, who was occasionally fazed by long high-lying phrases. The Canadian soprano, however, sang with fine projection, crispy delivery of the text and animation. Compared to her performances in Berlin under Marek Janowski, Waltraud Meier’s Klytämnestra sounded marginally more comfortable in her low notes, but still uncongenial in a role that requires an entirely different voice, I am afraid. Even her intelligence and insight cannot hide the contre-emploi (as the French would say). As much as I respect her artistry, I still believe Strauss wrote the low-lying part for a reason. Günther Groissböck was a dark, firm-toned Orest, somewhat stiff at times, but it seems that thi is what the production expected from him. Among the minor roles, Okka von der Damerau (as always) called attention with her finally focused and powerful singing.

René Jacobs and the Staatsoper in Berlin have a long history in reviving long-forgotten operas, such as Graun’s Cesare e Cleopatra, Haydn’s Orlando Paladino or Traetta’s Antigona. The most recent re-discovery is Georg Philipp Telemann’s Emma und Eginhard, first performed in Hamburg in 1728 in a gala event. This explains the original length of the opera (over four hours) and a cast list as long as R. Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.

Even if René Jacobs professed an unbridled enthusiasm for this score, he himself found it safer to cut it to fit the three-hour limit. I thank him for this decision. Although the opera is almost entirely made of short arias on the fast-and-bright side, we are miles behind of the inspiration and insight of Handel’s Serse. Telemann did not master the art of giving any meaning to coloratura or of finding any depth of expression – he seemed to be contented to stay within the limits of prettiness. Actually, this is not true – by the end of the opera, when the plot acquires some seriousness and characters have to express their grief in a more direct manner, Telemann’s music can be quite touching, especially in the duet for sopranos or in Hildegard’s lament on her friend’s death sentence. If you left the theatre unimpressed, then it’s entirely Telemann’s fault. René Jacobs conducted a spirited and sensitive performance, with top-quality playing from the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, including excellent French horn obligato in the best aria of the entire opera. Although director Eva-Maria Höckmayr tries too hard to add some political/historical/philosophical depth to a story perfectly effective in its cuteness, she does it without spoiling the fun: the staging is animated without being hectic, the Personenregie is detailed but not fussy and Julia Rösler’s costumes and Nina von Essen’s sceneries are exquisite and intelligent. Olaf Freese’s lighting is particularly effective too.

If something could be developed upon this would be the cast. Although these singers are all of them very reliable, only one or two truly master the style and use the writing to express an idea rather than dealing with it as a difficult task to get done with. The most important part is the role of Emma, which invariably gets the best arias in the score. As soprano Robin Johannsen sings it with complete sense of style, technical abandon and charm, the audience couldn’t help preferring her to her colleagues on stage. As the object of her affection, Nikolay Borchev proved to be truly adept with fioriture and other technical difficulties, but the tone is not intrinsically appealing and he is not truly at ease with baroque aesthetics. Although his German is accented, he makes sense of the text and is dramatically engaged. Stephanie Atanasov has a fruity, appealing mezzo and sang with some affection, but again this does not seem to be her repertoire. Baritone Gyula Orendt, on the other hand, has experience with baroque composers, and yet he seemed to be in a bad-voice day. Jan Martiník proved to have a comedy vein in his mock military aria and sang the final solo beautifully. Stephan Rügamer did not have much to sing, but the little we could hear makes me think that maybe he should have considered a career as a Bach tenor.

The second item in the RSB’s Strauss opera program this week, a concert performance of Elektra, showed Marek Janowski in his element: absolute structural clarity, understanding of the score’s graphic orchestral effects, a forward-moving approach to tempo that avoided unnecessary ponderousness and the right decision making in what regarded balance between singers and orchestra. This could only work because of the RBS’s extreme affinity with this piece: all musicians were fully integrated in the dramatic action and were ready to try different sounds, not to mention that the harsh and aggressive sound picture of Elektra comes more readily to this orchestra than the crystalline kaleidoscope in Daphne.

Casting too proved to be very effective, even when it was not ideal. Catherine Foster’s performance in the title role has to be considered with the fact that she has agreed to sing her part having an orchestra on stage and without cuts usually adopted to help singers in the most demanding passages. There has only been one perfect Elektra – and that was Birgit Nilsson – all the other singers fall in two groups: those who manage to get to the end of the opera singing something similar to what Strauss wrote and those who don’t. Ms. Foster fits in the first group. She has clear advantages: her basic tone is clear, youthful and spontaneous, she can lighten her voice for curvier phrases and to float mezza voce now and then and she proved capable of producing some very loud acuti in climactic passages. Although she manages her resources relatively well, there are moments when she is understandably tired, most notably in the final scene. Then she can sound fluttery, strained and brittle. But there is never the feeling that she “is not going to make it”. Watching her performance, I had the impression that she saw Kristin Scott Thomas at the Old Vic’s staging of Sophocles’ tragedy last year. Her approach had a similar irony, intelligence, vulnerability and a certain provocativeness. When this Elektra shows her soft side (as in the Recognition Scene), this sounds like a natural consequence. The problem remains that Hofmannsthal’s Elektra is doomed from the start – there cannot be a sense that she is going to survive this. And Catherine Foster is somehow too self-possessed and too ready to soften to ultimately deal with the escalating paroxysms leading to the final exhaustion in the end of the opera. If I had to point out a drawback in this performance, however, this would be less than crispy declamation, making some of Elektra’s vituperation generalized and unvaried.

Camilla Nylund’s velvety soprano offered a nice contrast for Chrysothemis. She dealt with the testingly high tessitura without saturating the picture with strident high notes and blended well with her Elektra towards the end of the opera. A beautiful performance. I have never warmed to Waltraud Meier’s Klytämnestra and hearing her live only confirmed my impression that she lacks resonance in this lower role, often resorts to speaking voice and is sometimes inaudible. Her understanding of the psychology of this role is very keen and more believable than the caricature put on by some exponents of this part. Günther Groissöck was a dark-toned, resonant Orest, and the role of Ägysth was glamorously cast with Stephen Gould, who could sing all his notes over a loud orchestra. Small roles were all of them well taken, but Gala El Hadidi (Second Maid) and Eve-Maud Hubeaux (Third Maid) deserve special mention.

Why cannot Max hit his mark anymore? The explanation in the libretto is that Kaspar had him on a spell. OK. Next question: why cannot Kaspar suffer Max and Agathe’s prospects of happiness? Countertenor-turned-stage-director Axel Köhler gives us the obvious answer: post-traumatic stress disorder. Max and Kaspar fought at the Thirty Years’ War, a particularly gruesome conflict that led to devastation, famine and disease. While Max had found hope in his love for Agathe and is understandably uncomfortable with a gun in his hand, Kaspar is a prisoner of battlefield terror and is resentful of having his ex-comrade in arm’s possibility of redemption. In this staging, the war is just over: all sets are ruins, people are clearly edgy and the Wolfschlucht scene does not need supernatural horrors: the memory of what had just happened is far more frightening. The concept is all right coherent, clear and often revelatory, but it is somewhat superficially represented in the Personenregie. Moreover, the anachronistic costumes jar against the Rolf-Liebermann-opera-movie sceneries. Those who have first discovered this opera in Carlos Kleiber’s DGG studio recording would have some trouble in recognizing the same orchestra this evening under the baton of Christian Thielemann. While Kleiber, Jr., had the Staatskapelle Dresden sizzle in bright sonorities and fast tempi, Thielemann works on a dense orchestral sound, his interpretation made from large brushstrokes and focused on contrast of atmosphere, with transitions heavily underlined. With the glamorous help of the Staatskapelle, success was guaranteed: the Wunderharfe’s rich velvety strings enveloped the vigorous brass-and-drums approach, the Semperoper’s uniquely warm acoustics offered an almost Bayreuthian glow and the Sächsische Staatsopernchor sang heartily. The conductor proved to be very kind to his singers, cushioning their voices in rich yet not overwhelming accompaniment in their arias – in return he kept them in tight rein in more rhythmically exacting passages. In her Kiri-Te-Kanawa-like plush lyric soprano, Sara Jakubiak has an ideally appealing voice for the role of Agathe. She sang with affection, sensitivity and good taste. If she wasn’t completely successful, this has to do with perfectible German (and I am not talking about the dialogues) and the fact that she sounds fazed when the least flexibility is required from her (as in the end of Leise, leise). In long, poised lines, she was always in her element and offered a touching Und ob die Wolke. I would be curious to hear her as Arabella. Christina Landshamer (Ännchen) sounds a bit out of sorts in both ends of her range, but other than this sang with charm, spirit and spontaneity. Michael König took a while to warm and could not make much of his aria. He made some beautiful tonal shading in his trio with Agathe and Ännchen, but the tone was too often too open and a bit nasal. It must be challenging to sing Kaspar in the theatre where Theo Adam built the “golden standard” for this role, but Georg Zeppenfeld, maybe as a preparation for his upcoming ambitious Heldenbariton venture (yes, Wotan…), more than met the challenge. This was a truly exciting performance: the voice firm and dark over the complete range, the text crispy and clear, the dramatic intentions perfectly understood and rendered, the dialogues exemplarily handled, the acting fully mastered. Bravo. In comparison, Andreas Bauer’s Hermit sounded quite woolly and prosaic. Adrian Eröd had no problem with the high tessitura of the role of Prince Ottakar, Albert Dohmen was an imposing Kuno, Sebastian Wartig took the limited opportunity offered by the role of Killian to show an interesting voice and real acting talent and all bridesmaids were competently cast.


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