Magazine article Opera Canada

Voicebox: Opera in Concert

Magazine article Opera Canada

Voicebox: Opera in Concert

Article excerpt

Toronto-based Voicebox: Opera in Concert launched its 2014/15 season last November with De Falla's 1904 La vida breve, a fusion of verismo and flamenco influences. In a little over an hour, it traces the story of a gypsy girl betrayed by her bourgeois lover while finding plenty of opportunity to inject Iberian colour. Voicebox presented it in a semi-staged format with piano accompaniment and the absence of de Falla's colourful orchestration detracted from the atmospheric nature of the first half of the piece. The introduction, after the interval, of guitarist Michael Kolk and flamenco dancer Esmeralda Enrique helped to remedy this. The whole was preceded by a skillful , tribute to de Falla written and played by Music Director Jose Hernandez.

Probably the main attraction for the packed house was a rare Toronto opera appearance by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian as the gypsy girl, Salud. The voice is much darker, more powerful and more dramatic than earlier in her career, which suits de Falla's music well, as did her very committed approach. Unfortunately, her upper register displayed a distinct wobble that rather detracted from the overall impact. Her lover, Paco, was elegantly sung by tenor Ernesto Ramirez, although, as with the other singers, he sounded very light alongside Bayrakdarian. Of the rest of a largish cast, Sarah Hicks gave a performance beyond her years as the Grandmother and baritone Marco Petracchi sang attractively and was dramatically convincing as the uncle bent on revenge.

Popular Spanish musical elements inserted in this piece demand a rather different approach than conventional opera and here were done well. Voicebox Artistic Director Guillermo Silva-Marin was suitably idiomatic as the Cantador, a sort of traditional wedding singer, and then there was Enrique. Her two numbers, perhaps closer to classic Andalusian than flamenco, were danced superbly, and she almost stole the show. The chorus, too, coped well with this aspect of the work. They have rather more Oles and hand clapping than conventional operatic singing, and they brought it all off to good effect.

Kurt Weill called Street Scene "an American opera," which seems fair enough. …

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