The Opera Factory | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Opera Factory 

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Zarzuela is the Spanish variant of operatic entertainment that originated in the royal palace in the 17th century and reached the peak of its popularity as middle-brow musical theater in late 19th-century Madrid. Numerous zarzuelas, ranging from frothy concoctions to large-scale dramas, were produced in the heyday of Spanish nationalism, and most of Iberia's finest composers contributed at least one work to the genre. At its best a zarzuela can rival a Gilbert and Sullivan in biting social mockery or a Lehar in romantic tunefulness. Geronimo Gimenez's El Barbero de Sevilla, a crowd pleaser since its debut in 1902, has elements of both. It's a sitcom that spoofs high-society pretensions and operatic conventions. The well-bred Elena wants to become an opera singer, a career goal approved by her mother but opposed by her boorish father. What's worse, she falls in love with Riccardo, a young, dashing (what else?) baritone. Both are cast in a production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville. Elena's coup fuels the jealousy of an aging diva, who happenes to be her father's clandestine mistress. One can well imagine the plot's complications and its happy resolution yielding a bumper crop of funny one-liners and melodic love duets. This revival by the estimable Opera Factory, whose mission is to promote zarzuelas in North America, is likely to be witty and musical. The leads are sung (in Spanish) by zarzuela veteran Donna Sadlicka (as Elena), Clyde Crewey (Riccardo), and Denise Finenran (La Roldan). Roberto Sapier is the stage director; Philip Bauman, a gifted young conductor, is in charge of the musical proceedings. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 PM, Sunday 3 PM, and three additional performances next weekend, Angel Guardian Theatre, 2001 West Devon; 761-1334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jennifer Girard.


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