Passion, please!

Opera Workshop

The latest Opera Workshop production was pleasant enough, partly as the result of director Ying Yeh’s working largely within the confines of three or four operas, which gave the program a helpful coherence. However, it still failed to satisfy.

I watch opera primarily for passion—in action, attitude and voice. This means that I look for (1) drama of voice and body, (2) character self-understanding and poise, and (3) a voice deep-rooted in the body and flexibly used. Give me that, and I will enjoy whatever is thrown at me, no matter how strong or weak, how amateur or professional.

Too many performances lacked the passion I sought. The singers failed to embody the emotions their words and characters demanded. Too many voices seemed to emanate from some point in the middle of the head. If this troupe is soon to visit Italy, its members must learn more of that dramatic self-expression for which Italians are famous.

Some brief notes on the program’s more appealing bits: (1) The opening chorale based on The Magic Flute‘s “Isis and Osiris"; (2) Peggy Hargrove’s strong voice in several places; (3) Melanie Farmer’s likable Papagena ("Pa…pa…pa…,” from The Magic Flute); (4) the two Magic Flute trios; (5) Marty Stentzel’s “Della Sua Pace” from Don Giovanni (Stentzel made his humble carriage and smaller voice work for his portrayal of Don Ottavio); (6) Lee Holcomb’s surprisingly strong voice (which needs more ways of shaping itself and slightly improved intonation), and (7) Jamie Barnes’ “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata” (Don Giovanni), which was probably the most successful solo of the bunch.