Opera review | ... what you missed Opera via Paris and Vienna filled stages in Bloomington and Indianapolis with splendid productions Nov. 15-17 and continues Nov. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., at the Musical Arts Center on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. Call 812-333-9955.

Diane Alexander

IU Opera Theater"s production of Jacques Offenbach"s The Tales of Hoffmann is stunning. Stage director Vincent Liotta and Maestro Imre PallĂ› have mounted a monumental work that showcases an outstanding orchestra, singer-actors, and lighting and scenic design and execution. Hoffmann"s tales are akin to Poe"s. They are fantastic, probing the human mind in its frailties vs super-powers. All of the singing is superb. The men"s chorus is rousing. The soprano solos each are filled with pathos and spirit. For some of performances Baritone Christopher Burchett wraps himself around all four villain roles with flair and assurance while four different baritones portray the roles in some performances. If you can attend both sets, it could be an experience of a lifetime. For IU, it"s not so much a conceit that its School of Music has the student power to carry this off, as it is a desire to burst out of the box and experiment. This reviewer witnessed Burchett carry off four villains on Nov. 16. It was awesome. Others also proved adept at slipping in and out of personas, including Hyounsoo Sohn as Muse/Nicklausse and Neil Darling as the four-part scene-stealer. Focusing on the intensity of a remembered string of stories, Michael Hayes was totally believable as Hoffmann, a poet in pursuit of worldly love in other-worldly circumstances. Will he self-destruct or be saved by his Muse? Do not miss this. What you did miss is Indianapolis Opera"s frothy rendition of Johann Strauss, Jr."s Die Fledermaus. It"s silly with fine singing and an ensemble that had real fun. Ross Neill brought a unique dimension to the love-sick tenor, Alfred. Elizabeth Carter"s playfulness matched with her rich voice makes you believe a chambermaid can be a star. Diane Alexander"s Rosalinda shows aristocracy tinged by a pre-bridal bohemian lifestyle. Jeff Mattsey brought a sliver of Li"l Abner to Eisenstein. Jeffrey LaVar, as Doctor Falke, delivered the show-stopper aria at the Nov. 17 performance. Douglas Perry, also playing Doctor Blind, lifted Prince Orlofsky to a different plane. Reid Roberts Miller put a localized spin on Frosch while James Stith"s Frank proved more reserved than usually portrayed. Maestro James Caraher led a fine Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and stage director Michael Scarola milked the libretto for every ounce of slapstick. The production, however, deserved a better set than the shaky rental from Utah Opera.

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