SIN CITY OPERA STARS AT WINCHESTER IN “L’ETOILE’’
By: Hal de Becker
Sin City Opera’s wacky and wildly entertaining production of French composer Emamanuel Chabrier’s L’etoile’ (The Star) is a ‘not to be missed’ production.
At times, this opera bouffe (comic opera) with its tuneful waltzes, mistaken identities, flirtations, humor and of course happy ending seemed a clever but respectful spoof of Viennese operetta. And, as in operetta, singing and spoken dialogue were combined.
Performed in English, L’etoile’s abundant wit and nuanced allusions to love and life, such as a Cartesian paraphrase “I suffer therefore I exist,” made it possible to enjoy both the sparkling dialogue and music.
Perhaps, in a nod to French composers’ fondness for plots based on antiquity and mythological themes, director Rebecca Morris set the work in a fanciful ancient kingdom governed by its randy ruler, King Ouf.
King Ouf and his astrologer, Siroco were portrayed in high style by, respectively, John Hammel and James McGoff. Their drunken duet was a standout.
As the sought after princess, Laoula, Kayla Wilkens navigated between King Ouf and her lover Lazuli. The latter was performed as a ‘pants role’ by Lauren McAllister.
Matthew Thomas Castleton took the part of Ambassador Herisson de Porc-Epic (hedgehog-porcupine), and Susan Easter portrayed his wife, Aloes. Their comical squabbling left little doubt as to the extent of marital bliss they enjoyed.
Their secretary, Tapioca, was played ‘en travesti’ by Miguel Alasco with whimsical camp.
Courtesans, a corrupt Police Chief and other droll characters were enacted by Carmen Ortiz, Isabella Ivy, Emily Kurcan Stephenson, Casey Dakus, Meric Pittman, Mike Winget, Skip Galla and Alex Joyner.
The artists’ singing, acting and high-spirited participation in the zany proceedings was impressive and thoroughly enjoyable.
Morris’s direction was bold, consistent and skillful. Her staging of the 15 member chorus was deliberately and delightfully disorganized. She took the opera’s amusing chaos to a tasteful limit but never beyond. And the comic elements were sustained without resort to slapstick or cliché.
In addition to enhanced lighting technics, the venue added a forward extension to each side of the stage enabling the artists to move closer to the audience. With SCO’s orchestra nestled between the two additions it was an attractive arrangement of forces.
Under the baton of Dean Balan the orchestra, consisting of strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboard, gave a concert level performance revealing the score’s wit and charm.
The colorful, inventive costumes and scenery were as engagingly eccentric as everything else about the production. They were credited to, respectively, Ginger Land-Van Buuren and Toni Kendrick. Large, appropriately celestial paintings by Aria Morris decorated the set and added to its visual impact.