We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, November 15, 2021


Nancy Fabiola Heerrera and Gustavo Feulien in Astor Piazzolla's Oblivion

The post-covid season of opera has been slow getting started, but for a weekend of delights we can thank the newly revived Opera Hispanica,  which has joined forces with Teatro Grattacielo. With Maestro Jorge Parodi at the helm, it seemed quite natural to begin with a work by Argentinian master of tango--Astor Piazzolla.

The first half of the program was his 1982 Oblivion which was used in the film Enrico IV. At this late stage of his life, Piazzolla was already famous for incorporating many musical styles into his tangos, from baroque to jazz. This work can be performed in a variety of instrumentations and we were fortunate to hear members of Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra conducted by Maestro Parodi himself, comprising a string quartet augmented by flute (doubling on piccolo), oboe, trumpet and French horn. Double bassist Pedro Giraudo did some ear-catching riffs of rhythmic vitality and pianist Rodrigo Ilizaliturri provided support and unification to the individual parts.

The star of the instrumentalists was, of course, bandoneonista Rodolfo Zanetti, whose performance was filled with vitality. The structure of the work is a series of songs, mainly about the suffering of lost love. Baritone Gustavo Feulien, whose Onegin we so admired a couple of years ago, sang with full tone and a depth of anguish in voice, facial expression, and body language. A powerful singer as he is can make you feel the torment in one's own body.  Indeed, who has not loved and lost and suffered!

There were interludes of instrumental music, sometimes a tenderness given to the strings, sometimes a harshness given to the winds. Maestro Parodi kept a firm hand and a gentle touch, as called for by the music. Mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera made only a brief appearance but starred in the second half of the program in which Mr. Feulien only showed up incidentally.

Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo began life as a work commissioned by a renowned flamenco dancer and was scored for voice, actors, and chamber orchestra.  Its 1915 premiere in Madrid was not successful; it has gone through a number of changes--getting scored for full orchestra and a suite for piano and has also been performed as a ballet.

Ms. Herrera's electrifying performance gave full attention to both vocalism and dance. Not for a moment did our attention lapse as she created the role of Candela, a gypsy woman haunted by her dead husband. Dressed in black she haunted the stage, or rather the cave in which she sought una bruja to rid her of the ghost. Swirling her mantilla madly she employed a style of singing verging on the jondo flamenco style. Boundaries were transcended on the part of the artist and the audience; we nearly forgot we were in the theater. It was one of those performance one is unlikely to forget.

Troy Ogilvie is credited as choreographer yet Ms. Herrera's performance seemed spontaneous. The set and lighting design was by Jon de Gaetano; it was simple but effective--a few reflective box-like elements scattered about the stage.  At times they were lit so that they appeared as fireplaces, which was particularly effective. Direction was by Malena Dayen. The excellent subtitles were credited to Francisco Miranda

© meche kroop


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