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Creative Loafing Review - Double Bill

January 31, 2007

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    January 31, 2007
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    Opera Carolina News

Creative Loafing Review - Double Bill

Too bad a script doctor couldn't hook up with Spanish composer Manuel de Falla and Simonize the libretto of La Vida Breve. The music of the score was a rare Spanish treat for Opera Carolina, spiced with proud flamenco rhythms and dancers, prodded by elegant guitar licks and the distinctive clink of castanets. Choruses brought out the dignity and the sufferings of the peasantry.

But the story of the young gypsy Salud and her betrayal by Paco, her rich lover, follows an all-too-predictable downward arc. We're completely cheated out of the necessary upward arc, never learning how Salud bewitched Paco or the trials he endured before succumbing to family pressures. There's little to captivate us about Salud in her mopey, suicidal phase except when Paco appears and briefly quells her fears. Olivia Gorro certainly tried to make Salud a heroine, emphasizing the melodrama and the passion, even dancing a few steps.

Vocally, Gorro's allure resided entirely at the bottom of her range. Her top was bland at best, often strained. If you closed your eyes and listened, Israel Lozano totally upstaged and overpowered her as Paco, the only vocal oasis here aside from the chorus. Open your eyes, however, and you'd never find a trace of Paco the rogue. Or the conflicted lover.

On the other hand, the familiar Pagliacci benefited from a strong staging that went easy on the melodramatic marinara. Not only was Todd Geer rich-toned and credible in Canio's signature plaint, "Ridi, Pagliaccio!" -- laugh, clown! -- he was charismatically supported by Luis Ledesma as his hunchbacked nemesis, Tonio. Gorro returned as Canio's treacherous wife, Nedda, a little short on impudent sass but very convincing in the commedia.

The rusticated rawness of Leoncavallo's harlequinade stayed vivid to the bloody end. Gorro took a second knife to the gut to close out the double bill. She took two for the team!