Naxos has again provided a well-produced, valuable documentation of an American opera. Louis Karchin's 1990 Romulus is inventive, amusing, interesting and, if not always the last word in melody, is very singable. Via the cast's crystal-clear enunciation, it is also understandable even without the enclosed libretto. The eleven member chamber orchestra under the composer's direction plays the score to perfection.
Romulus was translated and adapted from a play of papa Dumas by Barnett Shaw, an off-beat comedy about the sudden appearance of an infant in the home of an astronomer, his sister and a philosopher in the Austrian Tyrol. The fallout, both social and personal, is eventually resolved to everyone's satisfaction by the well-drawn, engaging characters.
The cast is excellent up and down the line. Steven Ebel a strong, clear-voiced tenor as Franz the philosopher initially suspected of being the unknown child's father; the rich baritone of Tom Meglioranza and bright soprano of Katrina Thurman as his sister; along with veteran bass Wilbur Pauley make a well balanced ensemble, fully into their roles dramatically from the premiere performances staged, interestingly, in New York's Guggenheim Museum in 2007.
I bought the CD to introduce Romulus (the name given the abandoned child) to the chamber opera company for which I design scenery and sit on the Board. Whether we ever produce the work remains to be seen but the opera itself makes for enjoyable listening and I am quite sure it is highly entertaining on stage