Operomanija 2018-19 Review: Alpha

It Turns Out That Opera & Comicbooks Are A Good Match

By Polina Lyapustina

We all know that opera is a very complex art. The plot, music, libretto, directing, singing, acting, stage design — these are just basics. But there are even more layers, which make opera so impressive and breathtaking. With the help of your imagination, you can easily picture this in your mind: richly decorated stage, great singers, large orchestra under Maestro’s baton. They all work together to create this new fantastic, but convincing world for the audience. But what if I tell you, that this weekend in a small hall of independent art institution I’ve witnessed the most complex and powerful operatic performance in years? And it was built up with Spanish melodies, played by just three musicians, classic operatic plot, minimalist libretto, two singers, and… comics.

Setting the Scene

The “orchestra” (an accordion, electro guitar, and drum machine) started warming up. You didn’t know it yet, but these anxious sounds were quite symbolic. Classical, minimalistic and contemporary at the same moment. So naturally mixed. That’s also a perfect description for the whole “Alpha.”

The music and initial opera were created by Albertas Navickas with another plot, also inspired by life and art of Federico García Lorca, but for some red-tape reasons was never performed. Fortunately, this sad fact turned into a new opportunity for other talented people to bring their creative forces together.

With another idea and the help of librettist Gabrielė Labanauskaitė, a new classic plot was created: memories, which brought anxiety and forced pursuits, with passion, fights, sex, and death eventually. Sounds familiar, right? And a story plays a dangerous game with a musical context. Motives of Flamenco are blended with recitative: asking, seeking for the truth, pouring out mixed passion and betrayal.

The World of Comics

Being finished musically, the composition needed a director’s vision to become a real opera. And this choice was a huge merit of Operomanija — an independent opera production company in Lithuania. The choice? Dr. GoraParasit.

What’s most important for the opera director? Original vision, strong position, imagination, musical or acting knowledge? Complex vision, open mind, and respect to what was done before, I’d say. And Dr.GoraParasit definitely has it all.

Saving the original story, when creating a new visual language was definitely a challenge. Under Dr.GoraParasit’s ingenious direction, this story of passion and revenge turned into comics. Somehow this seems extremely logical to me now and I wonder, why no one before has really made an attempt at it. Both opera and comics are such massive universes that house worlds within. And in “Alpha” they were combined gently and respectfully to represent a unique story analyzing social and cultural issues, which shaped one woman’s self-perception.

Main characters dressed in black looked convincingly graphic. Their actions became figuratively animated, and you basically saw the whole performance pictured in poses.

Another important part of the performance was the actual comics in the background, which illustrated and complimented the story with bright details. This idea also allowed the director to show sexual content, without having to force singers to get naked. So the main duet of the opera was extremely powerful, with no limitation in the expression of passion, desire, striving, angst. And actors could comfortably concentrate on singing while the main action riveted our attention on the background screen.

Vocal Fireworks

This performance brought a really bold sound, even if the music and libretto were quite minimalistic. Mezzo-soprano Nora Petročenko delivered a riveting performance as Isabel, hitting a number of impressive and powerful low notes. Her character is the dominant force in this story, so it required a low and deep voice, but also flexibility, a wide range and even heft. She could shade her tone with sadness, passion or agony effortlessly. This was really important to portray her character convincingly.

Petročenko’s stage partner, bass-baritone Nerijus Masevičius, is absolutely different. His voice is rich and round. His main character Luis’ confession in the last act was the precise dramatic moment it should be. His voice was carefully crafted to convey the controversial character.

The third hero, Harlequin, performed by Ieva Savickaite, was a scene stealer, indeed. The idea of putting someone, who never meant to be on stage is usually a lost game, but this Joker, a perfect fit for the world of comics, turned out to be the most welcome surprise inclusion.

Days later, I’m still thinking of what I’ve seen. I barely remember particular pictures, sounds, movements, but I remember how I felt and how amazingly beautiful this thought-provoking opera was — melodically, visually, and narratively. How many things inspired me, how much I’ve learned.

That’s what happens when people work together to represent a powerful idea, and respect the work of each other.


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