Posted by: operatheaterink | May 21, 2013

Review: ‘Dulce Rosa,’ LA Opera Off Grand, May 21, 2013

A powerful and dark ‘Dulce Rosa’ makes its mark at the Broad.

Maria Antunez and Alfredo Daza. Photo: Robert Millard

María Antúnez and Alfredo Daza. Photo: Robert Millard

SEEN MAY 17, 2013

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

The world premiere opening night of the new opera “Dulce Rosa” — with music by Lee Holdridge and a fine libretto by Richard Sparks — was dark and powerful.

I cannot say that the score is the music of a lifetime, but it is damn good — the best new opera I have reviewed in years. It sounded at times melodic and always passionate. When the drums pounded throbbingly, my heart stopped as if I were watching a suspenseful film with much drama. The richness of the orchestral sound and chorus were often exciting.

But what made “Dulce Rosa” so powerful for me was the excellent libretto in English, enunciated to perfection by the singers, who acted their roles to sheer ecstasy, really becoming the characters. Each character had a strong personality and will, and we in the audience could visibly see the passion in each of these people.

The story is a unique one, based on the short story, “Una Venganza,” by Isabel Allende.

“Dulce Rosa” is about a greedy revolution for power in a Latin American country in the ‘50s. The target is Anselmo Orellano, a retired senator, and his daughter, Rosa, at their hacienda.

Juan Aguilar, a rising politician, aspires to gain power and proposes that the leader of the guerrilla army, Tadeo Cespedes, eliminate the senator. After carrying out the deed, Tadeo rapes the senator’s daughter. She vows vengeance, lamenting her poor father’s death. But in a strange turn of events, Rosa forgives her father’s murderer and falls in love with him instead, only to be killed by a flying bullet meant for Tadeo from the gun of her fiancé, Tomas.

“You are as beautiful as your mother . . . the heart of my life,” Orellano sings emotionally to his daughter. Later: “I lived for you, and now you live for me.”

Heart-wrenching stuff!

At times the music seemed reminiscent of “Man of La Mancha,” but in a more operatic fashion. “Verismo” came to mind as well.

The scenery was simple and effective with an archway of expressive photographic projections within it and on either side of it.

I watched conductor Plácido Domingo in the pit. He was connected with the music and had an affinity for every bar.

Soprano María Antúnez as Rosa was lovely at the onset and a strong warrior after intermission.

Peabody Southwell as Inez displayed a lush mezzo-soprano throughout: mellow at the top and voluptuous at the bottom. I was sitting up close. She never broke character. She was real and believable, and her whole body displayed the character of her character.

Tenor Greg Fedderly was the loving father watching over his daughter as she succumbed to the remorseful full-voiced baritone, Alfredo Daza. Craig Colclough (Juan Aguilar) and Benjamin Bliss (Tomas Chacon) added excellent support.

I found myself teary-eyed when seeing the father and daughter interact, then again at her loss when he died. But the twist of her actions made me reflect on human behavior vs. morality, and the resulting dark conclusion was disturbing.

This new LA Opera production of “Dulce Rosa” is part of the company’s LA Opera Off Grand series, co-produced with and placing it at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The intimate theater and excellent acoustics lend themselves well to this opera, which was successful not because of one particular element, but because the sum of the parts created a powerful whole.

Conductor: Plácido Domingo
Director: Richard Sparks
Scenery Designer: Yael Pardess
Costume Designer: Durinda Wood
Projection Designer: Jenny Okun
Lighting Designer: Anne Militello
Chorus Director: Grant Gershon
Stage Manager: Lyla Forlani
Director, The Broad Stage: Dale Franzen