Thursday, January 24, 2013

Florencia en el Amazonas - Utah Opera

Over a year since I started this blog (with my one entry), now's as good of a time as any to get it going...

Utah Opera put on a solid production of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas. It is the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major US opera houses (Houston, Seattle, and LA).

Two of the leads, Cynthia Clayton (Florencia) and Hector Vásquez (Capitán), came to our Opera Workshop last week and held a masterclass with us. It was fun and educational, and it always makes a performance more engaging to know someone in the cast from somewhere other than on stage. Though I got to admit, they really need to update their headshots. I always think it's funny when people use headshots that seriously don't look anything like them anymore, but that's a whole other issue.

I saw it on a Wednesday evening, which meant the house was less than half full. I bought a 'student pass' that cost $50 for unlimited performances (assuming it's not sold out). It is good for both the opera and symphony, though I'm so busy I haven't seen any concerts. But even just for the four opera productions this season, it was a good deal.

I liked the opera. The music was very pretty. It reminded me of Copland. It had a very American feel to it. The musical writing was well suited for the text, and occasionally very lyrical. Lush would be good description of the orchestration. Speaking of the orchestra, that was probably my biggest complaint: they were just too loud. The music was so beautiful, but I felt sorry for the singers, especially the tenors, who's sound was completely lost. Even if I understood Spanish, I'm sure I would've needed the SuperTitles because I simply couldn't hear them. The women were easier to hear, but the high pitches made their voices cut through easier. The last production of Verdi's Trovatore had a wonderful balance between singers and orchestra. But at least the singing that I did hear was good quality.

The most likable character for me was Riolobo, a mystical commentator of sorts on the river. Played by Nmon Ford, he really did a great job of connecting with the audience.

The coolest thing about this production was the use of projectors to create the backdrop. Aaron Rhyne is a New York City based video artist and projection designer (I didn't even know they existed). But he created the backgrounds for the production and they were really cool. Some of my friends thought a couple of them were cheezy and a little too evocative of Lisa Frank, but I thought they were a great idea. With a new(ish) opera, why not utilize new technology in its presentation. Instead of flashing the lights to signal lightning, they could have actual lightning flash across the stage. And with the use of a see-through scrim, they were able to create some awesome effects likes pink rain and a growing butterfly. Maybe I just like cheezy stuff, but I thought it was cool.

Anyway, over I really enjoyed the production. I don't think it will make it onto my list of favorite shows, but I'm glad I went and wouldn't mind seeing it again (assuming I know someone in the cast, ha).