November will give Guadalajara plenty of opportunity to indulge its huge appetite for opera at the opulent Teatro Degollado, with three full productions sprinkled liberally throughout the month, two including dance.
The lineup starts with four performances on November 1 and 2 of Maurice Ravel’s imaginative “L’enfant et les sortilèges” (The child and the spells), followed by three stagings of Georges Bizet’s acclaimed “Carmen” and then Donizetti’s lighthearted comedy “L’elisir d’amore” (The elixir of love).
Although “Carmen” will doubtless be the unrivaled favorite of local opera-goers, “L’Enfant” is creating much more excitement in artistic circles here because it represents a leap for a city that tends to stick to familiar favorites, because it is geared to youthful imaginations and because it showcases some jewels of local talent.
Among these are the husband-and-wife team of Artistic Director Jorge Taddeo and Choreographer Lucy Arce, along with soprano Claudia Rodriguez, whose coloratura arias soar above the gamut of imaginative characters in “L’Enfant” — a grandfather clock, a teapot, a tree frog, etc. — all singing in voices appropriate to their natures. This enchanted and sometimes macabre menagerie tries to teach a lesson to a brat of a main character who has abused them.
The music is modern and engaging — Ravel composed it in the 1920s for a large orchestra, numerous adult soloists and adult and child choruses.
“It’s a work dedicated to and conceived for a young audience,” said Taddeo. “Ravel was a very special person who adored miniatures and to disguise himself. He was a big baby.”
Orchestra spokesperson Julia Gonzalez said that the choice of this work was geared to open the minds of a new generation to opera.
“It’s for children, but adults will love it too,” predicted Rodriguez. “It’s very interesting because of the music and the theater.”
“It’s so imaginative and it holds your attention,” said Kimball Wheeler, a well known mezzosoprano who worked as French coach to the cast. French is part of what makes “L’Enfant” so unusual in Guadalajara, which tends to go for operas by the Italian “big three” — Verdi, Puccini and Donizetti.
Taddeo noted that French opera specialist Maria Theresa Rodríguez will guest conduct “L’Enfant.” Another highlight will be the set design by Rocio Coffeen, daughter of the late U.S. painter Tomas Coffeen, who worked in Guadalajara for some 40 years. The younger Coffeen is well known for her weird and wonderful illustration, which promises to complement the whimsical but slightly scary tone of “L’Enfant.”
The opera next up (November 12, 14 and 16) will be the blockbuster “Carmen,” a perennial favorite, with Ragnar Conde slated as stage director and Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra Maestro Marco Parisotto as music director.
“Carmen” will bring an international cast on its coattails, including Sicilian born mezzosoprano J. Maria Lo Monaco in the title role, along with Chilean tenor Giancarlo Monsalve singing Don José.
The work, whose arias “Habanera” and “The Toreador Song” may be the most famous in all of opera, is classified as an opéra comique (comic opera) despite the fact that Carmen is murdered in the fourth act.
“It’s scheduled for three performances, instead of the usual two, probably because it’s sure to sell out,” said alto Debra Rodriguez of the State Choir and involved in the choruses of all three November presentations. “It’s one of the most popular operas in Guadalajara because it has a Latino flavor and takes place in Seville and involves bullfighting and flamenco dancing.”
Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” will be performed at the end of the month and also promises to be excellent, taking advantage of the luminary, mostly Mexican cast. Stage direction is again by Ragnar Conde and Carlos Garcia is the music director.
This lighthearted work is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world and the only true comedy among the three November operas. It deals with a love triangle between a peasant, a rich woman and a sergeant (sung by tenor Dante Alcalá, soprano Anabel de la Mora and baritone Luis Ledesma, respectively) and a charlatan selling love potions, sung by outstanding bass Rosendo Flores.
Ticket prices are economical by international standards, especially in the case of “L’Enfant et les Sortilèges.”
“L’Enfant et les Sortilèges” (The child and the spells), opera by Ravel; four performances: Saturday, November 1, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 2, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets 110–300 pesos.
“Carmen,” opera by Bizet; three performances: Wednesday, November 12 and Friday, November 14, 8 p.m.; Sunday, December 16, 6:30 p.m.: Tickets 100– 600 pesos.
“L`Elisir d`Amore” (Elixir of Love), opera by Donizetti; Friday, November 28, 8 p.m.; Sunday, November 30, 6:30 p.m. Tickets 100–600 pesos.
Tickets available at Ticketmaster, (33) 3818-3800, www.ticketmaster.com.mx and at Degollado Theater box office, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, Tel. (33) 3614 4773. Teatro Degollado is in Guadalajara’s city center two blocks behind the main cathedral. A 30 percent discount is available only at box office for students, teachers, seniors (with valid ID) and persons with disabilities. http://en.ofj.com.mx. Orchestra information: (33) 3030-9772 weekdays 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Access to the Degollado Theater is for children ages 6 and over. Friday morning dress rehearsals will not be open to the public for these operas.