Magazine article Opera Canada

Spoleto

Magazine article Opera Canada

Spoleto

Article excerpt

Prior to its staging at this summer's Spoleto Festival USA, Louise was last performed in North America in San Francisco in 1967, and before that, in 1939 at the Met. Composer Gustave Charpentier was clearly influenced by Italian verismo, both in music style and theme. He wrote his own libretto, which is astonishingly good as a slice of working-class Montmartre life. On one hand, there are the lovers--the seamstress Louise and the poet Julien--and their belief in free love. On the other are Louise's parents and their repressed prudery. The combination of text and music, the latter almost symphonic in its lushness, makes for compelling theatre, and maestro Emmanuel Villaume pulled out all the stops in dramatic expressionism. The swelling music assaulted the audience like a tidal wave.

In fact, as a musical play, this Louise was riveting, due in no small measure to the sensational American-Ukrainian soprano Stefania Dovhan. She is a stupendous singing actress who can modulate her voice to bring out a roller coaster of emotions. Her high notes have a sharp edge, but in the totality of her singing persona, she is an operatic dream. Russian tenor Sergey Kunaev's Julien was a bit of a stick, but he is good looking and did produce the romantic sound needed for the role. American mezzo Barbara Dever and bass baritone Louis Otey as Louise's parents were almost role perfect, both deploying big, low, Verdian voices that can command the stage. They were also very good actors, who captured the complexities of their characters. …

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