By Emmanuel Gutierrez |Asst. Features Editor|
Opera Scenes rocked my black, linty socks off during CSUSB’s latest theater production.
Unfortunately, I missed the first performance of the evening, but snagged a program upon my departure and can confirm it was a solo with Samantha Ibay performing “I Capuleti e i Montecchi.”
If the performance radiated a mere fraction of the quality exhibited by the following performances, then there is no doubt that Ibay was stellar.
The evening was comprised of a septet of scenes, each rendition from an entirely different opera or operetta. An operetta is an opera that is lighter in contextual tone, often humorous, and satirical.
The director of the theatrical production, Dr. Stacey Fraser, addressed the audience from behind a podium, providing context to the performance that immediately followed.
“I was impressed with all the performances. Like, all of them!” said student Lizette Chappa.
Each singer was, put simply, great. I don’t consider myself a connoisseur of opera, merely a fan of a few particular songs (particularly “La Habanera” and “Vesti La Giubba”) so I may not be the best judge of talent; however, I was most certainly entertained.
Music director and pianist Dr. ChoEun Lee accompanied the vocalists nicely.
She single-handedly (or dual-handedly) performed the orchestral music, transposed for piano, and as a pianist myself, I listened with pleasure and envy.
The variation in genre between operas and her fluid, technical articulations were impressive in their own right, but some pieces were pages long. She turned pages effortlessly, simultaneously playing in tempo.
I realize how lame some may regard my praise for turning a page, but she’s playing a two-handed instrument, performing classical opera scores with nary a mistake.
“The costumes were simple, but everything tied together really good. Their dresses were a nice touch,” said Maria Lopez.
The men started out in black tuxedos, adorning textured, white tuxedo shirts and black bow ties; as the night went on, they removed their blazers, changed their shirts—ending up all in black and more laid back.
The women’s costuming varied considerably and was more reflective of the nature of each respective scene.
In order to charm a man, Norina (from “Don Pasquale”) dressed in a tight, sultry, raven-colored gown, strapless and free flowing at the knees; the ladies of “Carmen” ornamented in white laced, floral patterned tops, draping skirts of pink, saffron, and orange when persuaded by smugglers to help them; a maid (from “Candide”) struggled to tie a bustier corset onto her mistress crowned with a plastic tiara—über-fabulous and bedazzled—(“bring the lubricant”).
“Even though I didn’t understand most of it, it didn’t really affect my appreciation for the performances,” said Ana Serrano.
Andres Valenzuela, the primo uomo (the masculine form of the prima donna, not in the vain, egotistical manner, but in the traditional, prestigious operatic sense) sang the aria “Linda! Si Ritiró.”
The piece was sung completely in Italian, exerting strength into the power of his voice, despite exposing his vulnerabilities as he dropped to his knees.
The language barrier wasn’t really an obstacle to overcome, but ironically, transformed his voice into an instrument that transcended language.