Monday, October 22, 2007

A Night at the Opera

At a mere 80 minutes Ainadamar was about 20 minutes too long. I was not alone in this opinion, my regular opera buddy Wahz and I felt about the same.

Certainly, there was a lot good about the production. The set, 3 walls and the floor, painted as a mural by Gronk were spectacular. The lighting design was terrific and produced amazing visual drama and enhanced rather than distracted from the set and the performance of the singers.

Dawn Upshaw once again demonstrated her range and ability to sing just about anything. Jessica Rivera was impressive as Lorca and Jesus Montoya as the disembodied voice of Ruiz Alonso was downright eerie at times.

Peter Sellers production was, well Peter Sellers production. The man definitely has a signature style, which whether it is setting le Nozze di Figaro in Trump Towers or Aiandamar in a dream/nightmare scape he pulled it off. And the restraint in costuming and the highly stylized movement of the chorus helped reinforce the sense of this being a memory or a dream or a bit of both.

I think my major complaints are that the piece is really a cantata and I would have enjoyed the music just as much in recital setting and that the last 20 minutes of the production, to be blunt, dragged. Margarita Xirgu rose from the dead at least twice. I mean, give a soprano a good death scene and I am ready to get out my hanky, however once Violetta gives up the ghost I am not sure anyone wants her to get back up and give you a recap of the action. The material at hand, the Spanish Civil War has enough possibilities of the grand guignol to satisfy even the most blood thirsty opera goer, yet I never really got an overwhelming sense of dramatic imperative. The music explored flamenco, gypsy, kleszmer and sephardic music and on the whole was effective and interesting yet as a piece it didn't seem structurally to hold together.

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled that Opera Boston is willing to take the risk to mount new productions instead of dragging out the same 3 warhorses year after year. I was pleased to have the privilege of seeing and listening to Ms. Upshaw and as I said the show was not without its merits or moments of enjoyment. If the show as a whole was not something I would go racing back to for a second helping it did have the merit of bringing something fresh to the Boston Opera scene. Next operatic stop, Handel's Semele. Like I said at the beginning of the post one of Ainadamar's virtues was that it was only 80 minutes, Semele on the other hand will try even the most firmly padded backside. I'll let you know how it goes.