Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Been there, done that

August 08, 2007

Wilbur Pauley as Alcindoro and Nicole Cabell as Musetta
Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2007
My visit to Santa Fe this year started out on a rocky note when I was forced to miss Monday’s Cosi Fan Tutte performance due to some unexpected personal obligations in LA. This disappointment was further accentuated when my neighbor at tonight’s opera performance informed me that the Cosi was “magnificent” one of the best he'd ever seen. Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, I was trapped in one of those “I can’t believe I’m sitting here watching yet another mediocre La Bohème” moments. Of course what did I expect? There is always at least one dog of a production amongst the lot here in Santa Fe and this year's Bohème turns out to be the likely contender for the title.

Director Paul Curran and designer Kevin Knight have put together a particularly uninspired and unconvincing staging that is neither romantic, sexy, or evocative of anything in particular. It was as reminiscent of Baghdad as it was of Paris. In fact if you took out the French flags it could just as easily been a dozen other operas. I appreciate simplicity as much as the next person, but here – less is less.

The performances of the cast and orchestra were satisfactory, if not inspired. This was a second string cast for the production, now that the festival is in its August phase, and no one was very memorable. Oddly enough the one ray of light here was the Rodolpho, Dimtri Pittas, who sounded quite strong even if he could have used a little more forceful stage direction. Also in the cast was recent Cardiff Singer of the World winner and Decca recording artist Nicole Cabell premiering here as Musetta. And she wasn’t bad – a bit under powered, but not bad. Of course it seems particularly cruel that Knight and the costume department felt the need to dress her as someone’s personal tribute to the more pulse-challenged member of the comedy duo Waylon Flowers and Madame.

The saddest thing of all, though, is that I’m certain that there were probably several people in attendance who were “transported” or something akin to that by all this schlock. Unfortunately, they weren’t transported far enough away and virtually all of the La Bohème performances here are sold out, guaranteeing that avoiding this kind of stuff will have to remain a priority for me in my opera-going future. Well, hopefully now that I have this performance out of the way, the rest of the week will pick up to be what Santa Fe Opera usually is - inventive and inspired.

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