* Notes *
Interlochen Academy of the Arts graduate Red Bennett's opera What They Seem premiered yesterday evening at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco. The jaunty music was directed smoothly by Cole Thomason-Redus, and the six musicians in the orchestra all sounded fine. What could be done with only oboe, piano, cello, trombone, percussion, and keyboards was impressive. Likewise, the singers were all talented. Soprano Raiña Simons sounded clear and warm as the Cat, and also acted her role of the Saint perfectly well. Soprano Krista Wigle had good timing as the Businessman. Kindra Scharich was an expressive and charming Grocer. Ross Halper's tenor is reedy but pleasant, and he was cute as the Hairdresser. Nathan Marken (Animal Seller) was slightly thin-toned, but the baritone looked the part. I found Kimarie Torre the most difficult to understand as far as diction was concerned, but her Fortune Teller was appropriately wild-eyed. Kristen Brown was grand as the Mayor, her volume was good. Bass-baritone Robert J. Cowan (the Butcher) has a lovely timbre. The children, Bola Origunwa (O'stella) and Yomi Origunwa (O'stello), did not have much singing, but were disarming.
The set, designed by Gilbert Johnson, was sweetly threadbare and not overly complex. There were a few times when the players could be seen exiting and entering, but otherwise the Michael Mohammed's direction seemed to go well. Costumes (Meg Newman) and hats (Krista Fatka) looked nicely-made. It was clearly an earnest effort on all parties. The weakest part was the libretto, written by the 18-year old composer and Sherry Boschert, a journalist and novelist. The plot was transparent, lacking both charm and substance. Also, I did not understand why the Businessman was called such, he was interested in observing and interpreting, as he sang many times. He seemed much more like a scientist or academic than a businessman. Obviously, there are plenty of great operas with utterly ridiculous story-lines. However, it is with good reason that most operas, even new ones, are based on extant work.
* Tattling *
There were no empty seats in the house, though most everyone there seemed to know someone in the cast and crew, not to mention one another. As such, the audience was well-behaved and attentive. No cellular phones or watch alarms were heard.
There was noise coming from the upstairs, people could be heard walking around. Perhaps they were attending the opening of "Mes LatinoAmericano."