From THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 29, 1986

Opera: Amram -Papp Version of 'Twelfth Night'

THE opera composer who turns to Shakespeare has two options - either to make the music serve the words or else to create the kind of musical metaphor that indirectly reflects his original.

David Amram's "Twelfth Night" - an opera now 15 years old with a libretto by Joseph Papp - reappeared at New York University's Summer Musical Theater on Friday with Mr. Amram conducting.

Musically, the composer has found nice ways to relate the modal flavor of Coplandesque heartland-America with the melodic shapes of Elizabethan music. Some of the more lyrical moments - especially the songs by Feste and the love music of Viola and Olivia - are really quite pleasant.

"Twelfth Night," with its large cast and Intricate layers of plot, is also at odds with opera's basic tendencies to condense, simplify. and inflate. Music, indeed, has a way of elongating stage action and making Its characters a little larger than life. In a play of such mercurial subtlety, opera composers (Mr. Amram among them) are hard pressed to recreate on the musical stage this kind of fineness. Thus his "Twelfth Night" is unfailingly gracious and occasionally quite Lyrical,

Set apart from the rest of the cast was the pleasing, seamless tenor of David Kellett In the role of Feste.

      Bernard Holland


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