Opera News - In Review: La Vida Breve & Pagliacci
Posted: Saturday, January 27th
Opera Carolina's first venture ever into the world of Spanish opera was Falla's La Vida Breve, performed on a double bill with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. The January 27 rendering, though capably sung and played, demonstrated the reasons the Falla work is not often performed. The plot, sensational to be sure, unfolds with creaking slowness, its lugubriousness overwhelming the score's lyric moments.
The Opera Carolina production didn't overcome the work's problems. Olivia Gorra sang well as Salud, Israel Lozano was a mellifluous Paco, and the Carolinas Latin Dance Company did its best to add a bit of festivity, but Chad Calvert's predictable staging and the nondescript sets, borrowed from Cleveland Opera, didn't help at all.
Things were much better with Pagliacci. Here, Calvert came up with some inventive and appropriate business that enhanced the pathos inherent in the story, and the sets, though still nondescript, were visually dominated by the commedia troupe's stage-wagon. Luis Ledesma, a stolid Uncle Sarvaor in La Vida Breve, had a chance to shine as Tonio and made the most of the opportunity. He delivered a comic yet thoroughly unattractive and sinister character, solidly sung. Robert Mack, confined to the orchestra pit as the Voice in the Forge in the first half of the evening, was a lively, believable Beppe, displaying his attractive lyric tenor to good advantage. As Nedda, Gorra had the opportunity to display the sort of versatility, including comedy, not possible in the role of Salud. Her singing was clear and attractive, and she related well to the Silvio of Joshua Hopkins, an ardent and youthful suitor. His light, pleasing baritone was well nigh perfect for the role.
But, of course, performances of Pag stand or fall with the portrayal of Canio. Charlotte native Todd Geer did not disappoint his audience. Geer lacks a bit of the vocal heft of some Canios, but his evenly produced tenor was powerful enough for the big moments to be memorable, and his acting was convincing in its pent-up fury. This was a satisfying portrayal.
The Opera Carolina Chorus and Charlotte Children's Choir contributed effectively, and one of the strongest aspects of the performance was the playing of the Charlotte Symphony, under Opera Carolina's general director, James Meena. This ensemble has become a formidable pit band, and Meena knows how to breathe with his singers while never letting the pace flag.
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