Opera Ithaca Hosts First-Ever Opera Festival | Music
Last week, Opera Ithaca hosted its first-ever opera festival, including three productions at the Hangar Theater, two pop-up concerts and an apprentice artist recital. The main event was “Nabucco” by Giuseppe Verdi, his renamed at the start workfirst at La Scala in 1842. But under the direction of Ithaca Opera artistic director Ben Robinson, this biblical tale of the jews conquered and exiled by Babylonian kingNabouchDNAzar (Nabuco) has been updated to a contemporary oppression (one of many): Independent journalists seeking the truth are suppressed by a ruthless media mogul. Today false prophets are media propagandists.
History does not lack tyrants autocrats; Verdi’s opera (to a libretto by Temistocles Solera) has been himself a veiled allusion to Italy’s resistance to Habsburg rule. In this production, opening bold graphic of a the tangled figure has been replaced by streaming video footage –– multiple screen Los Angeles news clipsJFK’s funeral, street protests, a phalanx of soldiers with batons, scrolling words of dissent. In Rose Howard’s Sparse Set design, floor gate our flag muted stripes, while three low platforms were studded with its stars.
Although the video imagery is perhaps too historically mixed, Americait is distorted media the policy was clearly criticized. As Robinson puts it in his notes, “I choose to recast Hebrews and Assyrians as opposing political voices caught in the fray of an authoritarian-minded propagandist. The inherent manipulation of the information cycle ––breaking news fatigue, the rush of misinformation and the rapid rise conspiracy journalism –– is one of the most pressing social problems in our country today.”
The huge on-screen close-ups –– of the progressive journalist Zaccaria (bass Nathan Whitson) urging his followers, and later extremist tycoon Nabucco (baritone Dennis Jesse) demanding allegiance. The silent videos were out of sync with the performer’s simultaneous speeches, creating an ominous dissonance reinforcing the media’s pervasive indoctrination.
Plot complications involve the kidnapping of Nabucco’s daughter Fenena (mezzo Natasha Naik), who became sympathetic to the independent cause; and the ruthless takeover by his supposed daughter Abigaille (soprano Rochelle Bard), who is fueled by revenge when Nabucco is driven mad (or in this version, stroke victim) after announcing that he is not just king, he is God himself.
Robinson’s staging of the large cast and chorus has been fluid and creatively chaotic, and Maria Sensi by Sellner 18 person orchestra to bringD great accompaniment. The singers dominated in their roles, especially Jesse’s complex Nabucco and Bard’s resentful girl. The range and vocal acrobatics of Bard’s delivery were outstanding; his envious fury was fascinating. Opera of Ithaca “Nabucco” was quite astriking production.
And I might add that the detailed plot was illuminated by surtitles, that the other two festival operas, both in one act, were sorely lacking. Just because an opera is in English doesn’t mean the words are clear, no matter how awesome the delivery is. The voices rival those of the orchestra music; words are whispered and shouted; melisma blurs and distorts meaning –– there is nothing natural about most operatic lyrics.
Reading a plot synopsis isn’t enough; we want to hear what the characters are saying. Unfortunately, about 95% of the dialogue in Missy At Mazzoli’s ” To prove himself(2018) and 70% in “Highway 1, USA” by William Grant Still (1963) was unintelligible. In the latter case, a clear sentence may be followed by a second inscrutable sentence; listening was like reading a heavily censored wartime letter. The work of thelibrettists (Royce Vavrek and Verne Arveyrespectively) has been reduced to pure sound.
The sound alone –– the vocals –– however, was powerfully compellingand the game just as expressive. Baritone Kyle Oliver and soprano Victoria Davis, as husband and wife, are the cornerstones of each opera. ” To prove himself ” focuses on a farm family in the dust bowl of 1860s Nebraska; the family of “Highway 1, USA” runs a gas station in the West.
Director Cynthia Henderson reversed these two traditional settings providing a predominantly black cast. The result is a didifferent look at him myth of the American dream. Projected historic photos show us portraits of black Americans: a family in front of their mud house; a cowboy; a service station attendant; a man looking for accommodation using the famous Green Book guide to travelers of color.
In both books, Oliver and Davis shone, and, in “Proving Up”, striking vocals too characterized the two daughters (Jaime Sharp and Kayla Oderah) and son (Makudu Senaoana). Effectively led by Gregory McDanielyouhe music differed, in that Still’s (compositioned half a century ago) is more conventionally lyrical (to culminating momentsalmost like film music)while At Mazzoli’s is piercing, freshly modern, even atonal, but deeply moving. The dramatic elements of these the chamber operas were unmistakable –– one yearned only for the nuances of the narrative.