Posts Tagged ‘opera san jose’

SJ Opera: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as "Padrona, the innkeeper" and Lisa Chavez as "Harriet Herriton," guest artist Jennie Litster as "the Opera Singer, " and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as "Philip Herriton".  Photo credit Pat Kirk

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as “Padrona, the innkeeper” and Lisa Chavez as “Harriet Herriton,” guest artist Jennie Litster as “the Opera Singer, ” and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Philip Herriton”. Photo credit Pat Kirk

This weekend I attended the World Premiere of Opera San Jose‘s Where Angels Fear to Tread, based on the novel by E.M. Forster, and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. I was very excited to see a brand new opera. Good or bad it is great to occasionally see something new, and that is a pretty rare occasion with opera. I felt like it had a shaky start, and I had some issues with the story itself, but as an opera it was completely enjoyable and I would definitely go see it again – something I do not often say.

I have not read Forster’s story, but the opera was quite an emotional roller coaster and I’m still not sure if this is considered a tragedy or comedy.  It opens with Lilia, a young English widow, and her friend Caroline Abbot vacationing in Italy. Lilia’s brother-in-law Phillip has rushed to see them because he has heard that Lilia has fallen in love with a young Italian, Gino, and not only that, but the young man is – hold on to your hats, folks – the son of a DENTIST. I know, it can’t get much worse than that, right??  Well, this is apparently a horrific situation to the English, but Phillip is too late as Lilia has impetuously gone out and married the young man already. Several months later we see the marriage has not gone well, but Lilia is now pregnant, so once again it is too late. But then Lilia dies in childbirth and her English in-laws have decided there is no way they will let the child be brought up by those wretched Italians (especially the son of a dentist! *GASP*) so Phillip and his sister come back to Italy to try to convince Gino to give them his son. Caroline Abbott also wants to adopt the boy, and is upset that the English family is really only concerned about appearances.

But then another tragedy strikes, and it is so upsetting I thought the woman sitting next to me was going to collapse in a fit. She could not stop exclaiming and clutching her hands to her heart until the end of the opera, and I have to agree, it was shocking and truly tragic.

And yet there is a lot of comedy in this opera too, including an adorable dachshund who completely steals the show at the end of Act I. I have heard the dog was trained to howl on cue, but it appeared to the audience that he was barking for everyone to STOP THAT SINGING and Act I ended with the audience in hysterics.  Later, almost immediately after the tragedy in Act III, Phillip gets his heart broken by the woman he loves, and it was a bit funny so we all laughed at him while also feeling weird for laughing so soon after the tragedy. The play ends with both Phillip and Gino deciding to live it up and be happy in Italy while the two women seem to sulk back to England, alone. How nice that the men, once again in opera, get to have the happy endings.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

The story may have given me some problems, but opera storylines often do with me. The opera itself however was spectacular. I was not too thrilled in the beginning, when I had troubles understanding the connections with the music, the libretto, and what was going on, but by the end of Act I I was all in, and from that point on the music and singing were simply amazing.  Jenny Litster has a small part as the Opera Singer, but she was adorable and completely won over the audience (along with the amazing dachshund). Guest artist Christie Conover plays Caroline Abbott and did an outstanding job, and I hope we can see more of her in the future. But the winner of the night was Brian James Myer, who stepped into the role of Gino when Matthew Hanscom was unable to perform. Brian James Myer made the show. During intermission the audience could not stop talking about the song he sang to his baby. It was a moving performance and made the later tragedy that much more horrendous and upsetting. When he is given his tragic news later, he sobs into Caroline’s lap in a scene that tore at our hearts. At the end he was given the loudest applause, and he deserved it. Brian James Myer is a name to look for in the future.

Aside from the bumpy beginning, which may have been problematic for no one else but me, the Opera Novice, the rest of the opera was incredible. Conductor Joseph Marcheso did a masterful job leading the orchestra. I particularly loved a short piccolo (possibly flute) solo, and there are plenty of oboe parts which are always my favorite. This is the World Premiere, and I look forward to hearing the music in the future and seeing the opera again as well.

The stage was set beautifully in Italy, with several tall columns that were turned to create slightly different scenes: a hotel lobby, a sitting room, a dining room, etc. The lighting, especially in the opening scene, was simply breathtaking.  The opera is in English with supertitles in English.

I may have issues with the story, but I have no problem recommending this opera or the music. I commend Opera San Jose for giving a new piece a chance and obviously putting a lot of time, effort, sweat and tears and money into this production. It was well worth it.

Where Angels Fear to Tread
Opera San Jose
Through February 22
California Theatre

 

The Opera Novice visits The Barber of Seville

Figaro (Krassen Karagiozov) gives Dr. Bartolo (Silas Elash) a shave. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Rossini’s Barber of Seville at Opera San Jose turns out to be a great introduction to opera, probably the best possible choice if you’re looking for one to try.  Every red blooded, television watching American child was introduced to Rossini at a very young age through the Looney Tunes Bug Bunny cartoon Rabbit of Seville (see below).  But having watched that seven minute short hundreds and hundreds of times (no exaggeration there), I still expected that the actual Barber of Seville would be a long, boring, stuffy opera.   I never would have expected that the real opera was even funnier than the Bug Bunny cartoon.

The excitement began for my guest and me as soon as the familiar overture music started.  All of the music from this opera is peppy, upbeat and, most important to a beginner, familiar.  We couldn’t help bouncing around in our chairs to the music during the introduction, half expecting Bugs himself to appear when the curtain went up.  We were dancing around through the entire opera, except for the moments when we were laughing too hard.

The uproarious laughter from the entire theatre almost never stopped.  Barber of Seville is a hilarious few hours of jokes, concealed identities, more jokes, and mischievous hijinks.  Rosina is a delightful, petite, spunky young lady with a large dowry and protected from the world (and other men) by her much older ward, Dr. Bartolo.  A young man, Count Almaviva, has managed to spot Rosina and enlists the barber of Seville to help him gain her hand in marriage.  This involves creating several different disguises, and playing lots of jokes on Bartolo.  Betany Coffland played Rosina on opening night, and I thought she was amazing.

Count Almaviva (Michael Dailey) and Rosina (Betany Coffland) prove that love conquers all! Photo by Pat Kirk

There were several young people in the audience on opening night, including even some small children, yet I never heard any rustling or cries of boredom.  Perhaps they were just drowned out, but I suspect the kids were laughing as hard as were the adults.  I noticed at one point that I wasn’t even reading the subtitles; the physical comedy and actions on stage told the entire story without help. The Barber of Seville is like Looney Tunes for grownups.

I thought the music was OUTSTANDING, and congratulations go out to conductor Bryan Nies and the rest of the orchestra.  I went straight home and downloaded every piece of music from the opera I could find.  And, okay, I also watched Bugs Bunny again as well.

Even after an entire year of unexpectedly enjoying the opera, I never thought I would say this, but for a really fun evening out, go see The Barber of Seville.  I even recommend taking your family, your entire family, and that includes the young ones.

The Barber of Seville
by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Based on
Le Barbier de Séville and Le Mariage de Figaro by Beaumarchais
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
February 12 – 27, 2011

The Rabbit of Seville
Woody Woodpecker does Barber of Seville

Take a chance in love: La Rondine at Opera San Jose

Magda in La Rondine

Opera San Jose recently invited us to attend opening night of Puccini’s La Rondine, and as I have a few friends who are crazy about opera, I decided to give it a go.  The result was that I loved La Rondine and cannot wait to attend more shows at Opera San Jose.  I also think that everyone would love this show whether you think you would like opera or not.  The problem in which I find myself now is that I realize I have no real knowledge of opera, so this review is going to be written from a strictly layperson’s point of view.

But perhaps this is a good thing.  Because I went into this show with an open mind and came out a huge fan, and I am a little disappointed to realize I have missed a lot of opera productions over the years.   But perhaps I can encourage some readers to give it a try with my novice’s take on the delightful show.

Cancan Dancers!

First, the opera productions are held in the beautiful California Theatre, and really I’ll take any excuse to attend an event at the Cal Theatre.  Second, the audience is dressed to the nines.  If you’d like an excuse to dress like a movie star, you’ll fit right in at the opera!  On the other hand, I wore black slacks and a nice blouse and my friend wore a dress with boots and we felt fine.  I do not recommend jeans.

Second, there are subtitles!  That’s right, subtitles at a live opera production!  There is a long screen hanging from the top of the stage where the subtitles are broadcast.  This puts it completely out of the way for anyone who wants no part of this technology, but is 100% helpful for those of us opera newbies.   So there is nothing to not understand, it is right there in front of you. (more…)

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.