Well, Opera in the Heights did just that Thursday,
and even more so Friday, night, with its Pecheurs des Perles by George Bizet.
A first time performance at the OH! and - so we are told - in Houston.
It was played to an almost sold out house and tickets are sailing out the door for the next dates March 31, April 1, 2 and a Sunday matinee on April 3..
best chance to catch good seats, as of now!
Opera seen on March 25 and March 26.
Personal impressions were, on the whole, extremely favorable.
I am always astounded what a good stage director, Brian Byrnes (credited with OH! Boheme and the super Don Carlo), can do with this postage stamp sized stage.
And OH! surprised me again, the stage seemed larger, airier!
PHOTO CREDITS TO GWEN TURNER JUAREZ-THANK YOU!
The usual steps were turned into raked flooring, enabling the two lithe dancers,
Marissa Lee Gomez and Ty Parmenter from the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater dance delightful pas de deux (Was 1/3 of the audience on Thursday newcomers=balletomaniacs?).
The on stage design (by multi talented Rachel Smith-stage manager, set and prop designer, set painter and builder) consisted of some boulders, 'sandy beaches', 3 columns (upright and fallen) representing the triangle, and the fallen 'temple virgin, perhaps!
And scarves, many swatches of brightly hued gauze floating and seductively draped this way and that.
Lightning (Kevin Taylor) was exotic, but also softly romantic, and often quite bright.
As is mostly the case at the OH! making for easy viewing by the, largely, older audience.
Dena Scheh, resident costumer, chose vibrant colored saris for the woman,
and more subdued hues for the fisher men's ragged outfits!
The orchestra under the baton of Maestro Linus Lerner had a good grip on the music. Especially the so very lyrical passages, a younger Bizet composed in a such a romantic vein. Lerner will be remembered for his spirited conducting of OH's recent Die Fledermaus!
He, among others, is in the running for the open post of Musical Director and Principal Conductor following the retirement of Maestro Weibel! Under Weibel's guidance, over many seasons, OH! was catapulted into opera world's limelight. And became a desired house to perform in for young talented singers on their way!
Chorus Master Fuller welded together an expanded OH! chorus which sounded even better the second night! Thu Ni Barrus prepared the casts as French diction coach!
Since Pearl Fishers, sung in French with English surtitles, is somewhat of a rarity,
here is a brief recap of the action: lots of superstition, religious fervor, and romantic love, all set in the exotic East (Ceylon). It is essentially a love triangle, one woman loved by two men. As temple virgin, Leila, ought not to fall in love, but she does it anyway with Nadir. And they are caught by Nourabad, who demands both to be done to death.
Zurga, who was Nadir's childhood friend, crowned king by the fishermen, also loves (albeit from a far) Leila. When he finds out that she gave herself to Nadir, even begs his pardon for Nadir but not herself, he is enraged. After some soul searching (and a beautiful solo) at the end relents and lets both escape! Only to die in their stead to satisfy the blood lust of the Priest Nourabad.
|Lee and Robles|
|Maidjian and Passmore|
Lee with his pleasant baritone was convincingly dramatic, yet romantic! He gave much of himself to the role.
Robles was a very nice find! His dulcet tenor is bright, clear and lyrical but, perhaps due to opening night nerves, had a bit trouble in the beginning with a high note or two. He did recover and ended easily with panache to much applause.
My favorite interpreter Nicolai Gedda with his clear bright tenor as Nadir
Maidjian was a Leila with suitably exotic looks and sweetly light soprano voice. Almost but not quite a real coloratura IMO.
Passmore has matured considerably since his first appearance at the OH! two seasons ago. His deep bass has become polished and he sang with refreshing yet authoritarian openness.
He was acting more freely. I sensed that he felt very much at home in his role.
Ruby cast, seen tonight (3/26)- had Brian Shircliffe (Baritone) as Zurga (role debut).
He is an OH! regular, he also has sung with HGO.