THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

<em>Achilles in Skyros</em>&nbsp;from Orchestra of New Spain

Review: Achilles in Skyros | Orchestra of New Spain | Moody Performance Hall


Hero Worship

The Orchestra of New Spain pulls another gem from obscurity with a production of Francisco Courcelle's 1744 opera Achilles in Skyros.



published Sunday, February 18, 2018
1 comment


Photo: Phil Leroux
Achilles in Skyros from Orchestra of New Spain

 

Dallas — If you may find our modern-day gender fluidity a little confusing, you can take heart in that such gender-bending behavior takes place in opera. Case in point is the recent production of Francisco Courcelle's 1744 opera Achilles in Skyros, last weekend by the Orchestra of New Spain at Moody Performance Hall. Here, we have a woman portraying a man, a hero, who is currently living as a woman.

ONS artistic director Grover Wilkins III digs these treasures out of dusty libraries and revives them in what are modern premieres. Pietro Metastasio, a librettist whose works were set by multiple composers, tailored this tale of royalty and the superman of the day, Achilles, portrayed by mezzo-soprano Carla López-Speziale.

Why, you may ask, is the great Achilles living as a woman? Well, this is opera so it is a little confusing. First, the role is sung by a female because, at the time, castrati took these roles. Thus López-Speziale portrays one of the great male heroes of all time. But she has an added problem. The plot has Achilles hiding out as a female on the island of Skyros at the insistence of his mother. Like most mothers, she doesn’t want him going off to fight in the Trojan War. López-Speziale does a respectable version of a male trying to pass in a dress. Vocally, she launches some amazing fireworks.

Photo: Phil Leroux
Achilles in Skyros from Orchestra of New Spain

Moment of Geek: A castrato was a boy soprano who was castrated before puberty to preserve the soprano voice with the power of a full-grown male. Today’s intact male soprano and mezzo-soprano singers are called countertenors and sing in a cultivated relative of the falsetto. Although some companies use countertenors in Baroque opera, many productions use females in what are called pants parts or trouser roles. Some operas are specifically written for a female taking the part of a young adolescent, such as Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Back to the Courcelle opera, Achilles doesn’t fool Deidamia, daughter of the King of Skyros, Licomedes, and the pair fall in love. (It looks a little weird to the neighbors). The thin plot thickens when Ulysses arrives hunting for Achilles, who gives up crinolines for the chaos of combat.

The production, staged by Gustavo Tambascio, who died of a heart attack a week before this production opened, eschewed scenery but didn’t skimp on the elaborate costumes. Actually, there was a clever substitute for scenery with projected artwork from the era that depicted the setting on the cyclorama in the back of the stage (scenic design is by Nicholás Boni). The costumes, by Antonio Bartolo Hernandez, were as elaborate as they were gorgeous.  The way you could tell the men, or those supposed to be men, was that they were in bloomers and tights (think Romeo). The women portraying women were in yards and yards of velvet with a cinched waist and huge bell-shaped skirts.

Baroque opera is all about the arias; showpieces area usually written for specific singers, and this opera is full of them. The Baroque traditional form of an aria is a first section, a contrasting section and then an exact repeat of the first section (or as the marking says “da Capo” or “to the head”). This is where we get the slightly sarcastic modernism of “da Capra.” The repeated section is usually ornamented to show off the specific singers’ abilities.

The long stretches of recitatives that are the other hallmark of Baroque opera were replaced with narration grandly intoned by actors Nicole Berastequi and Steven Young. This helped audience members know who was who and doing what to whom—but naming the characters, like in a printed script, in the projected supertitles would have helped us keep track (Brad Cawyer is credited with supertitles). Dancers, choreographed by Jaime Puente (also the assistant director), offered elegant diversions between the scenes.

As Achilles, López-Speziale steals the show. She has more of the showy arias to sing than all of the other cast members and each one was better sung than the one before it. Her acting was also excellent and she would have been completely believable as the hero Achilles if she was six-foot-plus tall.

The rest of the cast was equally strong. Kayla Nanto played the buzzkill Ulysses. Soprano Jocelyn Hansen was a youthful Deidamia. The excellent baritone Joshua Hughes portrayed King Licomedes.

Luxury casting in the smaller roles made this an exceptional production. The always marvelous Anna Fredericka Popova, in a clunky costume, was excellent as Arcade and Leslie Hochman was fine as Nearco. Chabely Rendon portrayed a confused Teagene, Deidamia’s ignored intended.

There was an excellent, uncostumed chorus of eight, and the orchestra playing on historically correct instruments was outstanding. On the podium, Wilkins always hit the proper tempo and was with the singers all of the time. He kept things moving along and brought great energy to the score. It is to his credit that the audience stayed interested in what otherwise could have been a longish evening of arias. Thanks For Reading




Comments:

Grover Wilkins III writes:
Sunday, February 18 at 3:59PM

In a tip of the hat to the liberated baroque woman in Spain, it is true that many italian operas of the baroque period employed castrati to great success. The Spanish however, had seen women on stage since at least the 16th century Golden Age of Spanish theater and music. All of the roles of Achilles in Skyros were taken by women known, as was the one man, by the composer. This has been the case for all the Spanish zarzuelas, tonadillas and now opera premièred (for modern times) by the Orchestra of New Spain and during the period for all secular works. However, boy and adult castrati were employed in the Royal Chapel Chorus and as soloists in all liturgical ensembles where women were simply not allowed.


Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Hero Worship
The Orchestra of New Spain pulls another gem from obscurity with a production of Francisco Courcelle's 1744 opera Achilles in Skyros.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie Piano Texas Mimir Festival 2018 Tonya and Nancy Mindfulness and Meditation Westside Story Trinity Shakespeare Festival 2018 Last Five Years The Cherry Orchard Stick Fly UNT Dance and Theatre Every Brilliant Thing White Rabbit Red Rabbit Dallas Opera 2018 2019 Open Classicial Melinda Massie
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit