Friday, June 27, 2014


Last weekend I saw the last of 3 performances by Opera Parallèle of Anya17, a British opera written explicitly to raise awareness of human sex trafficking. The dismayingly bald libretto by Ben Kaye tells the story of a young woman, presumably from Eastern Europe, who is smuggled into a western country where she is brutalized & forced into prostitution. Adam Gorb's music, for a band of about a dozen musicians, ranges from ugly modernism to seductive jazz. The uniformly fine cast all give admirably sincere & committed performances, but I wish the opera itself had been rewarding.

Soprano Anna Noggle is a controlled & solid singer & actor in the title role. Mezzo Catherine Cook is persuasive as a strutting, self-justifying trafficker. I enjoyed hearing Laura Krumm's rich mezzo voice in a part she sings mostly from the floor. I liked baritone Victor Benedetti's warm sound & smooth singing, even though his character mostly beats up women onstage. Soprano Shawnette Sulker convincingly conveys youth & innocence, & tenor Andres Ramirez sings lightly & pleasingly in a very odd role as a kindhearted john, bringing flowers for his favorite prostitute.

The production's visual design works well. The stage is a dingy, cage-like environment, with vivid but discrete video projections enhancing the action. 2 dancers, in glittery make-up, act as stage hands. The orchestra was onstage & partly behind a fence. Nicole Paiement's conducting was tight. The performance ran an intermissionless 90 minutes, & the audience seemed as serious about the material as the performers.

§ Anya17 (2012)
Music by Adam Gorb and libretto by Ben Kaye

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, director

Catherine Cook: Carole/Natalia
Anna Noggle: Anya
Andres Ramirez: Uri/Gabriel
Victor Benedetti: Viktor
Shawnette Sulker: Mila
Laura Krumm: Elena

Jane Das, Quilet Rarang

Marines’ Memorial Theater
4 p.m. June 22, 2014


David Lasson said...
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David Lasson said...
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David Lasson said...

Well, I must say that there is something rather innocent--if not downright ill-conceived--about promoting one's pet social cause using what has got to be the most rarefied (and, therefore, least attended) of genres competing for the public's attention nowadays; I fear that more headway would be achieved by putting on a half-time show about human trafficking during the world cup games.

Axel Feldheim said...

It is hard to fault the creative team for being so earnest, but the whole concept is definitely questionable.