Monday, June 10, 2013

Opera Parallèle Graphic Opera Lab

Last Friday evening Opera Parallèle presented a workshop reading of a Gesualdo, Prince of Madness, a work in progress by composer Dante De Silva & librettist Mitchell Morris. The two-act opera explores the psychology of madrigal composer Carlo Gesualdo, who infamously murdered his wife & her lover. Act I depicts the grisly murders. Act II shows the composer haunted by the ghosts of his victims years later. In this "Graphic Opera" presentation, the lights were dimmed & pages of a wordless comic book depicting the action were projected behind the singers. The pictures, by Mark Simmons, were appropriately explicit & lurid & functioned as the opera's staging. Some had simple animation added to them. It was like reading a comic book version of an opera while listening to the music.

Opera ParalleleDa Silva's score had an even flow & mixed modern & Renaissance elements. The overall mood was one of sorrow & dread. I found it a bit jarring that the librettto switched between English & Italian. Nicole Paiement was a punctilious conductor, & the musicians & singers all gave taut performances. Baritone Daniel Cilli has a nice velvety sound & was very engaged as the tortured Gesualdo. The role seemed high. At this reading, the orchestra consisted of piano, percussion, theorbo, & an electronic keyboard supplying other instruments. A trio of female singers sat with the orchestra & represented the female chorus that sings from the pit in the full version.

Opera ParalleleThe venue was packed, & there was a delayed start so that more chairs could be brought in. The run-through included both acts & lasted around 75 minutes. There was a pause between acts to tune the theorbo. The creative team sat on stage following the performance & talked briefly about their collaboration. Maestra Paiement praised the composer for his openness to suggestions from the musicians. A wine reception followed, during which there was a raffle drawing for valuable prizes. The same name got drawn twice, but it was decided that the person could only win one prize. Mr. Simmons has blogged his own account of the event & includes an illustration that should have been in the show.

§ Opera Parallèle Graphic Opera Lab

Gesualdo – Prince of Madness
Dante De Silva, Composer
Mitchell Morris, Librettist

Nicole Paiement: Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel: Graphic Opera Concept and Stage Director
Mark Simmons: Graphic Artist

Carlo: Daniel Cilli
Maria: Michelle Rice
Leonora: Maya Kherani
Fabrizio: Andres Ramirez
Artemisia, Anna & Patrizia: Nikola Printz
Orazio: Chris Filipowicz
Female Trio: Sarah Eve Brand, Lora Libby & Rachel Rush

Piano: Keisuke Nakagoshi
Keyboard: Eva-Maria Zimmerman
Theorbo: Adam Cockerham
Percussion: McKenzie Camp

Friday, June 7th, 2013, 7:00 pm
Sol Joseph Recital Hall
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

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