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Michigan Opera Theatre has given the world premiere of a stunning new opera, Cyrano, with music by David DiChiera and libretto by Bernard Uzan. The excitement of the event was remarkable: the Detroit Opera House (2,735 seats) was filled to capacity (Oct. 13) and the production was a huge success--visually grand, dramatically absorbing and musically captivating. The libretto is so closely based on Edmond Rostand's famous play that it is written and performed in French. It tells the tragic love story of Cyrano de Bergerac--a great swordsman, gifted poet and the possessor of a notably oversized nose. He adores the beautiful Roxane, but fearing she will be repulsed by his appearance, he hides his love. But Cyrano learns that Roxane is attracted to a handsome young soldier, Christian. Knowing that Christian lacks the courtly eloquence needed to win Roxane's love, Cyrano becomes Christian's mentor and stand-in--pouring his own emotions into what appear to be ardent letters from Christian. Only years after Christian's death does Roxane come to realize the truth, and, as Cyrano lies dying, she mourns, "I have loved but one person, and I am losing him twice."

DiChiera's musical style (think Erich Korngold) uses an on-going arioso manner connecting lush, melodious segments and extended lyric passages. Variety--a mix of drinking songs, marching songs, a particularly gorgeous balcony scene in the manner of Don Giovanni and a very impressive quintet--enlivened the score and lifted it far above the ordinary. The orchestration, by maestro Mark Flint, was too dense at times, but served to "color code" the characters: brass for Cyrano, strings for Roxane and woodwinds for Christian.


The large cast was studded with supporting characters, including several excellent young Canadians--Alain Coulombe (Ligniere), Gaetan Laperriere (Le Bret) and Daniel Okulitch (Carbon/Inconnu)--but the evening was carried by three singers. Romanian lyric baritone Marian Pop sang the role of Cyrano. Onstage almost throughout, he revelled in the high tessitura and many high-note opportunities, and was a dashing, convincing actor. Lyric soprano Leah Partridge was an elegant presence as Roxane. She soared through her high notes (high Ds) and brought much-needed substance to Roxane's potentially frivolous character. A young Spanish tenor, Jose Luis Sola, made his American debut, bringing his small voice and clear tone to the thankless role of Christian. Bass PeterVolpe made a strong, menacing presence of De Guiche, a would-be despoiler of Roxane. The visual style was traditional, with handsome period costuming and grand, stage-filling sets by John Pascoe. Acting as stage director, librettist Uzan developed his characters clearly, kept the action crisp and the story moving. Cyrano is a triumph for for DiChiera and his Detroit company.
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Author:Weiss, Ursula
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera review
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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