DETROIT - Impresario David DiChiera's eloquent and melodious love letter to Detroit was delivered Saturday night in the memorable words of Cyrano at the Detroit Opera House. A glittering capacity audience soaked it up inside the splendid old theater during the world premiere.
Having come to opera creation - as opposed to opera production - rather late in his illustrious career, DiChiera offered glorious untrammeled romanticism in the score he conjured for director Bernard Uzan's loser-take-all libretto.
With lush and very contemporary orchestration by Mark D. Flint, DiChiera's longtime collaborator in the pit, and over-the-top scenery and costumes by John Pascoe, the production was in every way a reminder of the glory days of Italian opera at the turn of the last century, augmented to further effect with all the 21st-century technology Puccini and others no doubt would have embraced.
The opening scene was gargantuan in scale, crowded with a very large chorus and, eventually, all the principals within a two-tiered set that nearly dwarfed the players and music. Immense Rococo columns, elaborate balustrades, curlicues and furbelows surrounded women swathed in yards and yards of muted jewel tones and elaborate hairdos, and men in military regalia, plumed hats, and long swords. (By contrast, the stunning impact of the Act III, Scene I opener, a battlefield, proved the less-is-more dictum applies to opera too.)
Fortunately, Donald Thomas' lighting was contemporary and subdued. It held the line between what could have been an overwhelming visual effect and helped focus attention where it mattered, on the singing.
And, though sometimes uneven in projection, the singing was generally superb.
As Cyrano de Bergerac, Romanian baritone Marian Pop was convincing and eloquent in performance, his rich voice and clear articulation more than equal to the task of one of the wordiest parts ever penned. If anything could be improved, it would be Pop's acting, which seemed understated for a character as charismatic as Cyrano.
In the musically challenging role of Roxane, the beautiful precieuse who cared more for words than action, American soprano Leah Partridge stunned with the suppleness and delicacy of her richly colored voice. From surprising strength at the bottom of her range to bell-like Cs and upwards high above the staff, Partridge worked her lovely instrument in service to the music and the drama.
Cyrano will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday, and October 26, as well as a 2:30 matinee Oct. 28 in the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway at Grand Circus Park. Preperformance talks begin one hour before curtain. Tickets at $25 to $102 are available at (313) 237-7464 or at www.michiganopera.org.
Contact Sally Vallongo at email@example.com