CCM alumna Joelle Harvey recently starred in New York City Opera’s production of Telemann’s “Orpheus,” singing the role of Eurydice. Harvey, who holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in vocal performance from CCM, was also mentioned in a New York Times review of the production and was praised by Times writer Anthony Tommasini for her “bright, agile soprano” and “winsome presence.”
April 28, 2011
Two Jilted Lovers Sharing a Stage, but Not Their Men
By STEVE SMITH
At the heart of both “El Amor Brujo” and “La Vida Breve,” striking works by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, is a woman of low social standing, jilted in love. Each incorporates the
influence of flamenco music and Gypsy culture. Where they part ways drastically is in how each central character deals with betrayal: one bedevils, the other expires.
Stylistically, though, the pieces have little in common. “La Vida Breve,” composed for a 1905 contest and first staged in France in 1913, is potent verismo, with Italianate lyricism and French
iridescence. “El Amor Brujo,” in its original 1915 version, is effectively a monodrama created for a singing flamenco dancer, with secondary roles mostly spoken. French Impressionism wafts
through its orchestrations, as well.
In staging these works for a Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater production — part of “Visiones,” the school’s season-long focus on Spanish and Latin American music — the director Nic
Muni conjoined them through shared stage resources and duplicate casting. Presented at the John C. Borden Auditorium on Wednesday evening, the double bill represented one of the more
audacious, intriguing operatic undertakings to hit a New York stage this season.
“El Amor Brujo” — usually translated as “Love, the Magician,” but rendered here as “Love, Bewitched” — posed the greater challenge: few opera singers, students or otherwise, are also
accomplished dancers. Mr. Muni addressed this by casting a dancer to shadow each singer and actor.
As Candelas, a prostitute who sells her soul to ensnare her lover, the striking mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis sang and spoke potently and moved vivaciously. Kaitlyn Costello, her
counterpart, writhed alluringly in seductive dances choreographed by La Meira.
Secondary players from “El Amor Brujo” took on primary roles in “La Vida Breve” (“The Brief Life”), in which Salud, a poor Gypsy girl, is abandoned by her wealthy lover, Paco, then turns up at
his wedding to die of heartbreak. Rebecca Krynski, a vibrant soprano who played an unwitting rival to Candelas, sang Salud with a secure, appealing sound and eye-opening volume. The tenor
David Sauer, previously Candelas’s ensorcelled lover, sang handsomely as Paco.
Nicole Weigelt and Robert Mellon were admirable as Salud’s grandmother and uncle. Ms. Bryce-Davis returned as Carmela, Paco’s bride. Brian Wahlstrom, charismatic as a silent Devil in “El
Amor Brujo,” sang strongly as Carmela’s brother. Brett Sprague’s honeyed tenor floated sweetly in selections sung offstage; as a wedding singer, Jhosoa Agosto showed an impressive grasp of
flamenco’s throaty, melismatic “cante jondo” (“deep song”).
Abetting the cast’s impressive achievements was solid work from choristers and dancers. The conductor José De Eusebio conjured fire and refinement from the orchestra. And in minimal sets by
Andrew Jackness and moody lighting by Japhy Weideman, you were reminded that ingenuity doesn’t always require an extravagant budget.