* Notes *
Berkeley Opera is midway through a run of Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle and Maurice Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges. The double bill makes for a short evening, a mere 2 hours and 10 minutes including an intermission. I was skeptical of the "unique multi-media staging," as both productions involved projections on an upstage screen. The Bartók used Naomie Kremer's videography, which at best looked like an animated version of Dave McKean's Sandman covers. At other times the images were a bit psychedelic, particularly when Door 4 is opened, the overlay of a human eye, flowers, and water. Door 7 looked like something out of a video game, Legend of Zelda, perhaps.
However, the music was wonderful. The orchestra, under the direction of Jonathan Khuner, sounded quite good. I did not like Kathleen Moss' voice at first, it was harsh and somewhat wobbly. But once she warmed up she sounded both crystalline and expressive. Paul Murray was more stoic as Bluebeard, but his singing toward the end of the opera was lovely.
The projections for L'enfant et les sortilèges were the work of Ariel Parkinson, and were more like digital backdrops rather than the videography of the previous piece. This complemented the both the dancing and the music. Misha Brooks was the petulant child, he acted well, but I was too distracted by the amplification to get an impression about his voice. The other singers sang from the sides of the theater and were represented on stage by either dancers or puppets. The 4 young dancers were clearly talented, and were well-synchronized.
Musically, I preferred Bartók to Ravel, but the latter had many more singers and because of the staging, the sound was unbalanced. Mezzo-soprano Paula Chacon sang especially well as the Chinese Cup and the Shepherd, she also sang the roles of Mama and the Dragonfly quite nicely. Baritone Anders Froehlich was hilarious as the Grandfather Clock.
* Tattling *
Yesterday's performance looked like it was sold-out. People were better behaved for the Bartók, but spoke during the Ravel.
Cass Mann took over the parts of the Shepherdess, the Bergère, the Owl, and the Bat for an indisposed Raiña Simons.