Posts Tagged ‘Long Performing Arts Center’

Not in jest

There’s not one wasted second in Rigoletto, and people do leave humming the tunes. The remaining three performances of this Austin Lyric Opera production will be on Februrary 4, 6, and 8. It’s not to be missed.

There are minor aspects that do not attain the general high standards of excellence of the rest, but this is a wonderful show. I could tell that there were many first-time opera-goers. I think that Rigoletto makes a good introduction, because the plot of the libretto takes some unexpected turns and the music is by turns rousing and lyrically beautiful. The costumes were rich, and I love the sets, lighting, and staging generally up until the last act. Others will disagree, but I didn’t think that laser flashes of lightning added a thing to the production, and those not familiar with the plot found some of that act a bit confusing. The play with rapiers was not witty. Perhaps an expert from the H-E-B checkout line should have been called in to give tips about wrestling odd-shaped contents into a sack.

The orchestra was at its very finest. The chorus continues to become better and better. Rigoletto is often sung by someone who’s really too old and occasionally by someone who’s a bit inexperienced; Todd Thomas was just right, and an excellent physical presence as well. Lyubov Petrova as Gilda held the house in dead silence when she sang Caro Nome and may have been the audience favorite. Her voice and that of Chad Shelton as the Duke of Mantua seemed for some reason not to be well matched. That says nothing about the quality of their singing, just that the duets and other ensemble pieces would somehow have been improved had either voice been partnered with another. Maddalena often walks away with her part, but that didn’t happen, perhaps because of the staging of the last act. Sparafucile the assassin (Peter Volpe) won the crowd. Occasionally, the sound was a bit muddy, but to me it sounded as if, although I haven’t seen any writing or commentary on this subject, it was being mixed and balanced artificially at times and that the results were not always an improvement over “unenhanced” music. Perhaps it was just the location of our seats, but I don’t think so.

Nearby parking was going at a flat rate of seven dollars. The City lots had in the past been free. Better lighting is needed at nearby pedestrian crosswalks or else APD should be on hand to direct traffic. An improved lighting design could keep people in the lobbies waiting for the hall to be opened from looking so unwell and the same might improve the safety of those challenging steep stairs with narrow treads.

This Rigoletto joins my other favorite productions: an ALO performance in the old Coliseum and a performance at the Paramount by a young touring company sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera that employed old-fashioned flat sets and starred Erie Mills before she was famous. Again, anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of these performances really should do so. Opera unites all the theatrical arts and this is a fine example.

Cinderella charming

La Cenerentola will star the same cast for all performances (scroll down the linked page to read a little about the people who have made this production the wonderful experience that it is). See a show if you can: remaining performances are on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:30 pm; Friday, November 14, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 16, at 3 pm. All the singers are young and talented, and the staging is also a work of art. I hope that this conductor, Robert Tweten, will return for future productions. He and all the singers have a way with Rossini.

The conceit of the show keeps the music, sung in Italian and with projected supertitles in English, but changes the era and the place, to twentieth-century Hollywood. To aid in this, the translations in the supertitles take some liberties, but in truth the plot is the same as it has always been. We all know that story and this is just another variant.

Program notes place the setting in the ‘Thirties. It’s an eye-candy pastiche that doesn’t follow a fashion timeline terribly closely. We see everything from stepsisters wearing clothes that could have come straight from Mary Pickford’s wardrobe during the silent era, to flapper dresses accessorized with cloche hats, to a smart little tailored suit with a peplum jacket of the sort that many women wore as their best civvies during WWII and up to the introduction of The New Look. Some of the men are costumed in plus-fours, argyle sweaters, and other hallmarks of a gone-by era. Everyone, male and female, gets to sport entertaining headgear at one time or another.

There’s so much to praise that I’ll just report that the show was wonderful: musicianship with clear enunciation, a small but clear orchestra ably conducted, and everything about the staging itself, including sets, costumes, use of the chorus, lighting, and the wonderful choreography, which on a small but heroic scale was a tribute to Busby Berkeley

The Long Center commands one of the finest views of downtown. This photograph makes it look a bit like a set from a German Expressionist movie, but there’s more to it than that. We noticed a light sculpture meant to be walked on, and some kids were having a fine time trying to be the best predictor of the next color of the panel under foot.

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