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Opera Review: Rigoletto at Santa Monica Bay Woman's Club

June 26, 2011 | 11:42 am

Rigoletto There is a small, fairly new (founded 2008) opera troupe on the Westside that chooses to bear the freight of a famous name, calling itself the Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera. Of course, there is no relation to the Met that you know in New York, nor for that matter a previous Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera Company whose proposed “Aida” back in 1984 collapsed in a blizzard of bouncing checks.

Nevertheless, this Los Angeles Met set up shop on the tiny stage of the ancient Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club on Saturday night for a production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Bare-bones pretty much sums things up. The sets consisted of just a single chair, a couple of tables, a trellis and a simulated-stone wall with door. The “orchestra” was music director Galina Barskaya playing a Yamaha Motif XS8 synthesizer, simulating a piano, strings, flutes and some rather androgynous electronic instruments.

The results were predictably modest -- and weighed down by the musical accompaniment. Despite Barskaya’s keyboard skill, the Yamaha’s characteristically mushy attacks made the pacing seem more sluggish than it actually was. Sometimes she was able to get nice results -- the imitation flutes in “Caro nome” -- but the Overture sounded hideous on the Yamaha, as did the silent-movie organ timbre for Monterone’s music.   

The voices were OK for the most part -- and in the case of Erica Lazerow Davis’s often opulent-voiced Gilda, more than OK -- and the acting followed the usual routines for this opera, with Terry Welborn’s Rigoletto making a decent stab at probing this complex character.  

“Macbeth,” “Die Fledermaus” and “Eugene Onegin” are planned for 2011-12, but I would suggest that this company would be better off exploring off-the-beaten-path chamber works that the big boys downtown and elsewhere are not pursuing. And, please, if you can’t afford an orchestra, use a piano.

-- Richard S. Ginell

Photo: Rigoletto (Terry Welborn) is comforted by Gilda (Erica Lazerow Davis). Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times