HomeOperaOpera Lafayette’s Silvain: Fairly Music Sure, However Extra

Opera Lafayette’s Silvain: Fairly Music Sure, However Extra

Opera Lafayette’s choices for the second half of the 2021-2022 season are organized round a single theme – The Period of Marie Antoinette, Rediscovered – in three productions introduced over the primary two weeks of June.  Her Majesty Antoinette, the final Queen of France, was herself a musician and a proponent of the musical arts.  One among her favourite works was the opéra comique Silvain (1770) by composer André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry and librettist Jean-François Marmontel, a piece fashionable in Europe throughout its time.  Her affection for the opera is stunning for a piece whose main theme is expressed close to the tip of the libretto as “easy advantage holds extra weight than good start”.   Nonetheless, she was a robust advocate for pastoralism, a rising tide of sentiment in pre-revolutionary France; she even had a mannequin farm constructed.  The opera’s easy story of estrangement and reconciliation between relations and lessons, coupled with Grétry’s beautiful, melodious music and impassioned arias and ensemble numbers are fairly sufficient for a night’s leisure.  Nonetheless, there’s extra to this story, and Opera Lafayette employed a formidable group of consultants to speak that extra, providing a number of applications to teach its viewers about societal modifications in 18th century France that impressed creation of the opera and the way its message performed out for good and sick on each side of the Atlantic.

Camille Ortiz as Elena and Victor Sicard in Silvain. Photograph by Jen Packard; courtesy of Opera Lafayette.

To emphasise the story’s relevance for as we speak within the Americas, Opera Lafayette’s Creative Director and Conductor Ryan Brown has moved the story from rural France to the American Southwest, particularly the world of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, the place points relating to landownership and management have engendered conflicts within the space lasting tons of of years.  That is the second opéra comique that Creative Director Brown has recast within the nineteenth century Southwest; see my report on Le Maréchal Ferrant produced in 2020 and introduced in DC throughout September 2021.  Mr. Brown selected younger filmmaker Tania Hernández Velasco to work with him on this challenge, commissioning her to report visuals from Taos, NM and San Luis Valley, CO for the staging. She additionally utilized visuals from her movie “Titixe”, about efforts to persuade her grandmother to maintain the plot of land her peasant grandfather had toiled. The libretto was reworked to suit the brand new setting by Linn Carey Mehta with singing in French and spoken dialog primarily English with intermittent French and Spanish.  The plot for OL’s Silvain includes a son Silvain, disowned by his father Dolmon, for marrying a poor Spanish-speaking girl, Elena; father and son are French immigrants who managed to accumulate a big tract of land within the San Luis Valley of Colorado within the nineteenth century.  Silvain and Elena farm for an enough dwelling, supplemented by looking on widespread lands underneath a thoughtful landowner.  They’ve two daughters, Paulina and Lucia, and their group is planning for Paulina to wed Bazil, when information arrives {that a} new proprietor of the land is coming to the world, threatening new restrictions.  The brand new proprietor is none apart from Dolmon, heightening the father-son battle for Silvain.  The youthful son of Dolman arrives on the scene first and orders three guards to arrest Silvain for looking on Dolmon’s property.  Dolmon then arrives and is charmed by the goodness of Elena and her two daughters, whom he had not met earlier than.  The daddy reconciles together with his son Silvain and accepts the spouse and daughters as his household.  Whereas the story nonetheless resonates as we speak, it was revolutionary in 18th century France.

l to r: Camille Ortiz as Elena, Samantha Louis-Jean as Paulina, and Teresa Castillo as Lucia. Photograph by Jen Packard; courtesy of Opera Lafayette.

In a superb pre-opera speak, Conductor Brown together with Sylvia Rodríguez, professor emeritus of anthropology at College of New Mexico, and Callum John Blackmore, doctoral scholar in historic musicology at Columbia College, offered the background for Grétry’s opera and OL’s model of it.  We realized that pastoralism, the idealism of straightforward nation life and its connection to nature, was sweeping France within the 18th century as a migration to cities and the issues that was inflicting have been urgent points.  The easy life was not as simple as land use points between the Aristocracy and peasant farmers remained a relentless wrestle.  The Grétry-Marmontel theme inserting easy advantage over start rights resonated with many and would result in the French Revolution of 1789.  The problems of sophistication distinction and struggles over land use rights had migrated to the U.S. Southwest as the world modified possession from native peoples, Mexico, and the U.S., with Mexico having given enormous land grants to European immigrants there.  The scenario within the Southwest was difficult by a essential shortage of water, which was additionally a problem inflicting conflicts between land customers and house owners, particularly within the widespread lands which everybody might use.  The opera Silvain additionally immigrated to the U.S. and had a considerable run in New Orleans in 1796.  18th Century French music, together with Silvain was being carried out in its period within the West Indian French colony of Saint-Domingue, which would be the topic of one other OL efficiency this June.  Silvain was carried out there, and the message was used, in Mr. Blackmore’s phrases, to paper over the brutality of the slave economic system.  Fairly music sure, and extra!



Teresa Castillo as Lucia and Jehú Otero as Bazil. Pictures by Jen Packard; courtesy of Opera Lafayette.

I attempted to take all of this info in, together with listening to one of many instructional collection supplied by OL in preparation for the opera.  Nonetheless, it was when Conductor Brown first moved the baton beginning OL’s 22-piece orchestra enjoying that I first felt the acquainted; sure, I felt Opera Lafayette viscerally when 18th century French music started to play on interval devices and crammed the auditorium with lovely sound.  That is OL’s core energy, and for me, this was the sustaining life blood of the efficiency.  Grétry’s rating complemented the drama onstage with music that was repeatedly offering pleasing melodies, marvelously performed by the orchestra. 

Baritone Victor Sicard sang properly and created a plausible Silvain as a loving husband struggling together with his relationship together with his father.  His duets with spouse Elena performed by soprano Camille Ortiz have been particularly pleasant.  Ms. Ortiz was a spotlight of the efficiency from her first look.  Her solo aria worrying that the reappearance of the daddy would pressure her relationship with Silvain was particularly touching.  The daughters have been properly performed by soprano Samantha Louis-Jean as Paulina and soprano Teresa Castillo as Lucia.  Ms. Castillo confirmed some sparkle and humor because the not but marriage age daughter envying her sister.  One other spotlight of the efficiency for me was tenor Jehú Otero as Bazil.  His singing and appearing have been particularly endearing.  Bass-baritone Nathan Berg was on level as the daddy Dolmon.  The conversion of offended father to charmed father-in-law occurs quick on this drama, and he made essentially the most of it.  Dolman the younger son was ably performed by Zack Powell as have been the three guards performed by Juan Hernandez, Gilbert Chavez, and Jose M. Pietri-Coimbre.  The ensemble numbers starting from two to seven performers have been a particular deal with.  At first, I discovered myself being essential of the appearing within the spoken dialog and faulted the gamers, even I as I cherished the singing.  Nonetheless, I now suspect the issue was the libretto which made pure speech tough; the dialog typically sounded extra prefer it was being learn than spoken, particularly within the first half of the opera earlier than the stress among the many characters rose and was mirrored within the speech.   

Silvain (Victor Sicard) is confronted by the youthful son of Dolmon (Zack Powell) accompanied by three guards (Juan Hernandez, Gilbert Chavez, and Jose M. Pietri-Coimbre) whereas Bazil, the mom and daughters look on. Photograph by Jen Packard; courtesy of Opera Lafayette.

The staging of the opera was properly completed.  Cascades of string served as partitions and panels separating or framing the stage motion.  The costumes have been spectacular, colourful, eye-pleasing, and becoming for the setting of the drama, though I saved considering that these peasant women ought to suggest to their seamstress that she transfer to New York the place an excellent profession as a dressmaker awaited her.  The costumes for the efficiency have been the truth is designed by artist Patricia Michaels, already established within the vogue design world.  One other attention-grabbing aspect of the staging have been the visuals projected onto a display screen behind the set, that from the start launched us to the agrarian foundation of the drama and have been used to boost storytelling all through.  The visuals chosen by Stage Director Tania Hernández Velasco have been a welcome addition and a spotlight of the efficiency, although on just a few events the motion within the visuals competed too efficiently with the motion on the stage, fairly than supporting it.

All is properly that ends properly: within the group to the best, the daddy Dolmon (Nathan Berg) talks amiably with two of the guards to his left whereas everybody feels and expresses good will. Photograph by Jen Packard; courtesy of Opera Lafayette.

For years now, I’ve struggled to outline Opera Lafayette’s particular attraction that made me a fan instantly a number of years in the past.  I at all times felt there was one thing along with the dependable creativity, authenticity, and prime quality that OL at all times brings to the desk.  Eventually, I feel I’ve it.  On the way in which dwelling from Silvain, my spouse was gushing in regards to the efficiency.  My spouse hardly ever gushes and by no means about opera.  Her typical remark with out my probing is “It was good; I loved it”.  This time she even posted feedback on Fb when she received dwelling, a primary about opera: “I spotted one thing tonight that I had not realized earlier than. I like Opera Lafayette. Beloved tonight’s efficiency of Silvain, at all times with interval instrumentation. Thanks Ryan Brown (founder, conductor, and inventive director)! That is meals for my soul, with a wholesome dose of leisure and schooling.”  Meals for the soul?  That’s it; the descriptor I’ve looked for is “healthful”.  Merriam-Webster defines healthful as “selling well being or well-being of thoughts or spirit”.  Healthful has gotten a foul rap as boring, however that is dependent upon the richness of the expertise, not an issue for Opera Lafayette. Ryan Brown is keenly attuned to healthful, and his productions mirror that high quality, whereas on the identical time being entertaining and enjoyable.  Attending Opera Lafayette productions have interaction and convey out that higher individual in us, offering an enriching, humanizing expertise.  That isn’t an overstatement; my spouse responds strongly to healthful.

The Fan Expertise: Silvain was scheduled for performances on June 2 and three within the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Middle and on June 7 in El Museo del Barrio in New York Metropolis.  The efficiency final roughly 90 minutes with out an intermission. Supertitles in English have been offered. Additionally remaining on the docket for Opera Lafayette this season are Live performance Spirituel Aux Carïbes on June 9 in El Museo del Barrio and on June 12 within the Kennedy Middle’s Terrace Theater.  OL will even carry out a live performance The Musical Salon of Marie Antoinette on June 8 in El Museo del Barrio.

This system handed out at performances for this season is over 100 pages, a collector’s merchandise, overlaying the small print and histories of the works to be introduced.

Opera Lafayette’s subsequent two seasons, revealed within the efficiency program, will even be theme-based surrounding the eras of two extra well-known French ladies, The Period of Madame de Pompadour for 2022-2023, and The Period of Madame de Maintenon in 2023-2024. 




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