Opera San José's La voix humaine & Pagliacci
November 13, 2011
* Notes *
Last night a double bill of La voix humaine (pictured left, photograph by P. Kirk) and Pagliacci opened at Opera San José. It is something of an odd juxtaposition, one imagines it is based on the duration of these two operas and the fact that it would be difficult to present the Poulenc on its own.
La voix humaine is an unsettling piece, a one-act opera featuring one rather unhinged, needy woman on a telephone with a bad connection. The music is spare and the singing is speech-like. Mezzo-soprano Betany Coffland gave a nuanced, controlled vocal performance. The orchestra, conducted by Bryan Nies, supported her well. Coffland was only slightly overwhelmed at a few points when she did not face out to the audience because of her blocking. Her acting is strong, she looked completely distraught and devastated. J.B. Wilson's set is descriptive without being entirely literal. The silver nightgown designed by Alyssa Oania is elegant, but satin can be unforgiving.
Pagliacci was performed with an appealing immediacy. The playing was not always together but clean. The singing was straightforward, the acting again here was formidable. Evan Brummel (Tonio) has a hearty, warm voice. Jasmina Halimic made for an attractive Nedda, she has a fine command of her facial expressions. Her voice was not particularly pretty in this role, it has some grit to it at the bottom, but she was convincing regardless. Alexander Boyer (Canio) was slightly tentative, and could have sung his big aria with more anguish. Boyer has a lovely sound, his performance seemed neat and correct. The set for this opera, also by J.B. Wilson, is simple. The Commedia dell'arte costumes looked like perfect historical replicas as seen in paintings.
* Tattling *
The person in Row G Seat 106 helpfully pointed out that the intermezzo of Pagliacci was "very dark."