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Review: ‘Goyescas’ at The In Series

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Tiered steps and four small café tables re-imagine the Spanish courtyard. With friendly interaction and wine, music and dancing, a cast of nine singers and two dancers introduce the evening with folk songs. Seven panels of various sizes both horizontal and vertical cut into the space. The romantic images of Francisco Goya, a Spanish artist from the late 18th, early 19th century, creates a vision of idyllic aristocracy. Goyescas, by Enrique Granados, a classic Spanish opera reframed for the In Series by Director/Choreographer Jaime Coronado and by DC Playwright Elizabeth Pringle opens with this set of songs followed by the complete opera.

The cast of ‘Goyescas.’ Photo courtesy of The In Series.

The first act envisions the composer returning to Spain and homeland. The lively courtyard is filled with songs by Granados and by Manuel de Falla.  Short passages of connecting text are spoken in English, while the Spanish is sung with an English translation overhead. Falla’s hypnotic The Will O’ The Wisp (Cancion del Fuego Fatuo) is immediately familiar and a conclusive merge of voices. The café regulars are dancers who make visual the emotion or highlight music without song. Alisa Bernstein captivates with the rhythmic flare of Spanish dance, the bold power of the castanets, and an engaging smile. Sara Herrera’s proud bearing glides, while circular wrists gesture conversation and stitch together small transitions between songs. There is the café proprietress (Elizabeth Mondragon) and the tarot reader (Soprano Adriana Gonzalez) as well as a love sick man and a loner. The characters are observed by Granados (Oscar Ceville) and his wife (Cara Gonzalez) and he reflects back on a life’s work. Conductor and pianist Carlos C. Rodriquez brilliantly sustains the emotion of memory that belongs to Granados, whether a frozen tableau or as a grounded link that flows from one song to the next.

After intermission, the opera is performed in three parts. A cast of twelve singers and four dancers skillfully shift the action that revolves around romantic tension and societal class divisions. The backdrop panels provide a rural landscape, a meadow on the outskirts of Madrid, then later change to a candlelit dance-hall, and finally to Rosario’s garden. The images shift away from Goya paintings to photographs of details of Spanish architecture.

Peter Joshua Burroughs and Fairouz Foty. Photo courtesy of The In Series.

The Ensemble in the rural section is a large collection of hearty souls, earthy and suggesting a lower class passionate in enthusiastic song.  Rosario (Soprano Fairouz Foty) is the upper-class girl and her presence is genuine and powerful. An impressive singer, Rosario is joined by her suitor Fernando (Tenor Peter Burroughs) and the two are commanding together. The Intermezzo performed by dancer Heidi Kershaw is elegant as interplay between balletic waltz and bold flirtation in the snap of a fan. In the dance-hall, the divisiveness of Spanish society is on display as the gentry and the country folk confront. The ‘dainty feet’ of the large group danced and the castanets percussive rhythms underscored the passion. An outstanding voice is found in Paquiro, a toreador, (Baritone Alex Alburqueque) who commands a slightly villainous role, charming nonetheless.

The tale is a romantic venture and an excellent vehicle for opera, dance, and theatre. The Spanish lace, the mantilla, a shawl worn over head and shoulders, the many other details that suggest time and place and Spain are brought together by Costume Designer Donna Breslin. Though the Act I remains a bit detached, Goyescas provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy committed singers, dancers, and directors, passionate to bring forward the work of Enrique Granados, a composer who helped popularize Spanish music.

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Goyescas plays through December 18, 2016, at the In Series performing at GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington. DC. Tickets can be purchased online.

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