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Thread: Cyrano (DiChiera) at Opera Carolina

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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Cyrano (DiChiera) at Opera Carolina

    Cyrano, opera in three acts, sung in French with English supertitles
    Music by Opera Lively Interviewee David DiChiera (piano score; orchestrated by Mark Flint, revised by Steven Mercurio)
    Libretto by Bernard Uzan, after the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Eugène Alexis Rostand (1897)
    Premiered on October 13, 2007 at the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit, MI, USA

    This review is of the opening night on 11/4/17 in Charlotte, NC, Blumenthal Performance Arts Center, attended in person by Opera Lively

    See the Opera Lively announcement of this show with details on time/date/tickets, four exclusive interviews with the three principal singers and with the composer, including pictures from previous productions of this opera, and a video clip with another piece by the composer, by clicking [here]

    The Charlotte Symphony conducted by Steven Mercurio
    The Opera Carolina Chorus
    The Men of the JCSU Choir

    State Director (and librettist) Bernard Uzan
    Lighting and Video Design Michael Baumgarten
    Costume Design John Pascoe
    Wig and Make-up Design Martha Ruskai
    Stage Combat Director Kara Wooten


    Cyrano de Bergerac - Opera Lively Interviewee John Viscardi
    Roxanne - Opera Lively Interviewee Magali Simard-Galdés
    Christian de Neuvillette - Opera Lively Interviewee Sébastien Guèze
    DeGuiche - Kyle Albertson
    La Duenna - Maariana Vikse
    Le Bret - Keith Harris
    Ragueneau - Eric Johnston
    Carbon, and Inconnu - Jeffrey McEvoy
    Capucin, and Marquis de Cuigy - Randall Scotting
    Lignière - Ashraf Sewailam
    Marquis de Brisaille - Carl DuPont
    Montfleury - Johnathan White


    This contemporary opera does not at all sound like one: the score is Neo-Romantic and with plenty of melody. Musically speaking the opera is very beautiful with several touching moments. Highlights include the first act early chorus, another chorus for the song of Cyrano’s regiment, a second act semi-ballet in the bakery scene with very nice female chorus, a spectacular duet between Cyrano and Christian when they first agree upon collaborating, Roxane's aria in the balcony scene, the second act quintet during the wedding scene, and by far the best moment, the letter-reading scene that ends the opera with phenomenally emotional and poignant music for both Roxanne and Cyrano.

    Whenever DiChiera is working the melodic line, he is at his best. I'm less impressed with the orchestration which sounds choppy in parts and seems to privilege the brass and the woodwinds which can compete with the singers, making it difficult to hear them. When the strings are playing, they are generally more interesting. Percussion is also not ideally used. The orchestration could use another revision.

    The libretto is quite good and with brisk pace and worthy theatricality. It is more interesting for those (like this reviewer) who speak French, because the supertitles not always do justice to the French text, and also at times the translation was abridged, not recovering all the lines.

    All things considered - purely speaking about the opera - while in parts it feels like a work-in-progress that could improve, overall it is like I said a very beautiful piece with several strengths, and this opera will delight those who regret the turns taken by modern and contemporary music after Puccini's death. I give it an A-.

    Now, let's talk about the physical production. This was one of the most accomplished shows from Opera Carolina in the last few years. What I like a lot in this company's performances is the lighting and video design. Michael Baumgarten who always does it for the company, often uses large screens in the background with beautiful projections that enhance the realism and the sheer visual beauty of the spectacle - I remember for example a gorgeous Les Pêcheurs de Perles. This time, again there were trompe l'oeil effects producing the illusion of more depth, the convent scene was gorgeous, and he also used period paintings for example for the battle scenes. It worked very well. The set was spare with simply three large and tall structures with arcs that moved around to produce different environments, with the projections taking care of the differentiation between the scenes. A+.

    Period costumes looked fairly luxurious, just like one would imagine this story that is situated in the 17th century at the time of the Franco-Spanish war. A+.

    Blocking and fight choreography was another strong point, with large choruses moving well on state, and the sword fights were well done. Another A+.

    In summary, the physical production was very accomplished. To round up the theatrical aspects, the acting was not bad at all. A.

    Now, for the musical aspects.

    Orchestra and Conducting - I wasn't very pleased this time. I thought that the dynamics were too strong and tended to drown the singers. I missed Maestro James Meena's delicate touch, since he wasn't the conductor tonight. Steven Mercurio has a good reputation but naturally, it is hard to substitute for Maestro Meena's perfect mastery of this nice orchestra that he has been conducting for years. B+

    Chorus - Pretty good. A.

    Principal singers - I liked the young French tenor very much, who sang Christian. A+. He was easier to hear over the orchestra than his baritone colleague who sang the title role. While the latter had less projection, he did sing beautifully in terms of phrasing and colors, especially the final scene (he earns a score of A). Our Roxanne did very well too, and actually a lot better than two other singers I heard in this role in video clips from Michigan and Philadelphia. A+.

    The smaller roles and comprimarios were surprisingly good, more than usual, although I wasn't as pleased with the countertenor who sang Capucin. Overall, A.

    So, let's put it all together.
    The opera itself, A-.
    The theatrical aspects, A+
    The musical side, A.

    Therefore, this show gets a final score of A, from Opera Lively.

    So, is it A++, like another contemporary opera I've just reviewed, The Exterminating Angel? No. But two aspects need to be considered: not only A is still a very good grade, but also, independently of scores, I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. It's a very strong production, the singers are good, and the piece is compelling even if it could use a bit of polishing in its orchestration. I found that it was a wonderful opportunity to see a work I didn't know before, and I was happy that I attended, not to forget that I had the good fortune of interviewing the charming and knowledgeable composer over the phone, and had the pleasure of meeting him backstage for a handshake and a souvenir picture. I loved the evening, and I very much recommend this show to those who are at driving distance. Don't miss the Sunday matinée, my friends. You won't regret it.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); November 5th, 2017 at 03:19 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I realized that the pictures I included in the interviews article, although I recovered them from the Opera Carolina material about the opera, belong to previous productions, because they don't match what we saw today.

    I don't have professionally done production pictures yet (will ask if the company has some, will update later) but just to give an idea of what I said about the background projections, I will temporarily include here a few pics I snatched in less-than-ideal conditions with my iPhone. They are grainy and blurry and don't do justice to the beauty of the physical production but at least the readers will have an idea of the visual side.

    Pre-opera talk with Jeffrey McEvoy

    The balcony scene

    The second act quintet

    A scene during the war with the soldiers asleep

    One of the scenes that used period paintings for the background

    Curtain calls

    Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of two of the visually most striking projections: the convent scene, and one of the war scenes all in red and with a naval battle in the background.
    Attached Images Attached Images            
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    OK, got real production pictures from the company:

    Attached Images Attached Images              
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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