Review | The melodious chaos of the opera Santa Barbara
If an opera company season can be seen in sequential narrative terms, on our last visit to Opera Santa Barbara (OSB), the encounter ended in a veritable cliff jump. A tortured Tosca jumps off a parapet/scaffolding to her death. The curtain falls, in more ways than one. It was then; it was Puccini. Last Sunday, the second episode of the OSB season, at the Lobero Theater, turned the emotional tables drastically, with a stunner Rossini from a comic opera.
In La Scala de Seta (The Silk Scale), our heroine, Giulia (the radiant Santa Barbara-born Jana McIntyre, with a beautiful voice and a very comedic form), is a young schemer in love rather than a tortured soul. She first appears on the upper landing of the shop’s decor, near the window which is the location of the fateful “silk ladder” on which the lovers (one destined, the other not) go to hoist.
The one-act, one-place comic opera is built around a bizarrely complex plot, which can best be unraveled when we sink into the rich atmosphere of the musical element and a live production. The singing and acting were ideally suited to the wacky challenges ahead, especially from suitors Christian Sanders and Matthew Peterson, buffoon Efrain Solís and beauty in disguise Christina Pezzarossi.
Director Josh Shaw, who showed off his deft hand in Rossini-land in OSB’s Barber of Sevilleplayfully reset the 1812 opera in a circa 1930s Parisian fabric and tailor shop, giving costume designer Stacie Logue the chance to whip up appropriate clothing and bask in a fabric-friendly vibe.
As if emboldened by the dizzying abandonment of Rossini’s invention, the production takes other post-modern liberties with 19th-century opera. In a dizzying mid-run, Helena Kuukka’s lighting design abruptly shifted into more moody mode and the cast burst into an unusual dance step. Near the end, a flashing reference to a character named “Rat Pack” signals the brief appearance of a felt pen as pianist Tim Accurso snuck in a twisted chorus of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Not sure that Rossini gives his blessing there.
In short, La Scala de Seta, skilfully presented by the forces of the OSB, has imposed itself as a conspiratorial frivolity wrapped in an elegant musical outfit, whose certain Rossinian touch emerges from the opening (orchestra conducted by conductor Alexandra Enyart) until the presumably happy ending. We left the theater thinking “What just happened?” while feeling effervescent after the frenzied comedic energy and polished lyrical experience.