Thursday, February 19, 2015

Opera Parallèle: Open Rehearsal

Last Saturday afternoon I attended the open rehearsal for Opera Parallèle's production of Dead Man Walking, which has 3 performances starting Friday night at the YBCA Theater, then 2 more in Santa Monica in March. We got to hear some of the most important scenes in the opera, including the big ensemble with the murder victims' parents in act 1.

Baritone Michael Mayes, with his bushy sideburns & loping movements, looks convincing in the role of the condemned murderer De Rocher. He can sing while doing push-ups, & his sinewy, unfussy voice sounds just right for the character.

Mezzo Jennifer Rivera as Sister Helen communicates her character's inner strength & did a great job swinging her hips like Elvis. The male chorus sounded focused & much greater than its small size.

The excerpts ended with the painful farewell between De Rocher & his mother, played with an undemonstrative realism by mezzo Catherine Cook. The scene worked well with the performers & audience so close to one another, & some audience members were crying.

Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi accompanied the singers, playing so brilliantly that I did not miss having an orchestra.

The event concluded with a Q & A with all the participants. We learned that several cast members have been in other productions of the opera, including baritone Robert Orth, who was in the original San Francisco Opera premiere. Opera Parallèle is using a reduced orchestration, which conductor Nicole Paiement has revised to include more strings. She also observed that "There is a fine line in this music. If you do it too slowly, it becomes sentimental, & you don't want that."

§ Dead Man Walking: An Opera in Two Acts
Music by Jake Heggie
Libretto by Terrence McNally

Opera Parallèle
Conductor: Nicole Paiement
Director: Brian Staufenbiel

Sister Helen: Jennifer Rivera
Sister Rose: Talise Trevigne
Sister Catherine: Crystal Kim
Sister Lilianne: Krista Wigle
Mrs. Charlton: Rachel Rush
Mother: Ellen Presley
Cop: Mark Hernandez
Father Grenville: John Duykers
George Benton: Philip Skinner
Guard 1: Igor Vieira
Guard 2: Anders Froehlich
Inmate 1: Mark Hernandez
Inmate 2: Andres Ramirez
Inmate 3: Lorne Barfield
Inmate 4: Roy Eikleberry
Inmate 5: Patrick Hage
Inmate 6: Chris Coyne
Joseph De Rocher: Michael Mayes
Older Brother: Jonathan Smucker
Younger Brother: Baxter Spark
Mrs. De Rocher: Catherine Cook
Owen Hart: Robert Orth
Kitty Hart: Kristin Clayton
Howard Boucher: Joseph Meyers
Jade Boucher: Michelle Rice

§ Open Rehearsal
First Baptist Church, 22 Waller Street, San Francisco
3 p.m. February 14, 2015

§ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
8 p.m. February 20, 21, 2015
2 p.m. February 22, 2015

§ Broad Stage, Santa Monica
7:30 p.m., March 7, 2015
2 p.m., March 8, 2015