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NY Theater Reviews

John Noble/ Ph: Shirin Tinati

DISJOINTED BIOGRAPHY

By SANDY MACDONALD

The musicians are skilled, but the story about conductor Arturo Toscanini is steeped in sentimentality and smarminess.

As Mark Twain famously described golf (“a good walk spoiled”), the cheese-fest that is Maestro represents a good concert smarmified. Author (and Ensemble for the Romantic Century founder) Eve Wolf could at least have come up with an opening scene more arresting than having John Noble – as the celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini – beat time to a recording like any bathtub fantasist. Soon enough, the maestro is relating his biographical highlights to a sympathetic (and talented) string quartet, while alternately artsy and historical projections morph against a backdrop vaguely resembling a classical colonnade. Looming stage right is a massive white Steinway concert grand, which pianist Zhenni Li will work to impressive effect, outshone only by young Maximilian Morel as Gershwin on trumpet.

Larded between the musical selections are news bulletins (Toscanini unfortunately – and unfairly – comes across a braggart with regard to his admirable antifascist activism) and excerpts from love notes sent to an extramarital paramour back in Italy. The script’s insistent focus on the erotic noodlings of a randy old goat (66 to her 36) does not lend itself to originality, much less profundity. Classical concertgoers who require a special sauce might find this overheated stew palatable. At least it provides a showcase for a cadre of skilled musicians.