Just the other day, I decided to drop in to check out one of the latest dress rehearsals of the Pomona opera company’s performance of Il Trovatore. Yes friends, Pomona has an opera company! And this performance looks to be the best yet!
As many of you know, I attend the same church as the opera company’s directory LizBeth Lucca. So I was at church on Sunday, asked LizBeth when a good night to come write a review of the latest show was and ze said, that that night would be great. So I borrowed a digital camera from a housemate, jumped on my bicycle that evening and off I went to the opera. And boy – folks, is it a goodie.
At this rehearsal, I actually got conversing with many of the performers more so than I had ever before, got to hear their personal interpretations of some of the characters, how they felt about the story they were telling, and about their involvement in the Repertory Opera Company (ROC) itself.
Debbie Dey, one of the people playing the roll of Azucena gave me the inside scoop on the basic storyline for this opera – Il Trovatore. It is quite a tale of tragedy and revenge:
A count kills someone’s parent, burning them at the stake, and as revenge, ze (Azucena) kidnaps the count’s infant child (Manrico) and tries kill the infant by throwing it in a raging fire, but by accident, ze throws in hir own infant child. Well, ze decides to raise the child as hir own.
In the meantime, the count has yet another child (Di Luna) who also grows up, the original count dies and Di Luna becomes the new count. Also over the years, with Azucena’s parent being slain, and then with the death of hir own child in the fire, these events take quite a toll on hir psychologically – driving hir mad.
Now with both siblings grown, Manrico wages war against Di Luna, neither knowing that they are siblings. Manrico meets Leonora, a lady in waiting (an assistant to the princesses who basically makes the princess look good, though ze hirself also has assistants), and they fall in love. Count Di Luna is also in love with Leonora, but the love is not returned. Di Luna captures Manrico as a prisoner of war, and captures Azucena, too. With the capture of Azucena, the count interrogates hir, suspecting that ze had kidnaped hir sibling. And eventually, both Manrico and Azucena sit in the castle dungeon.
Seeing the situation, Leonora makes a deal with the count that if ze sets hir lover free, that ze will marry the count and Di Luna agrees. Leonora then goes to the dungeon, tells Manrico about the deal, and confesses that in such distress ze just consumed some poison and is about to die.
Leonora dies, Di Luna ends up then hanging Manrico, and in the final moment of the opera, Azucena gets sweet revenge by revealing to the count that ze had just killed hir actual sibling.
High drama to be sure!
As I spoke with several of the cast, they really spoke passionately about the characters they played, talking about the thoughts and feeling that the characters were experiencing, etc. It was so interesting. No doubt that such personal reflections on the characters brings out even more passion in the music of this opera.
Somewhat relatedly, the cast and crew of Pomona’s opera company have been working side by side putting on performances for a number of years now, I got a distinctive sense of comfortability and comradery among them at this rehearsal that lent itself to a wonderful air and atmosphere. I think that such air make Pomona opera a marvelous flower of vigor and life here among us in Pomona.
As many of you may know, children have been performing in the operas for quite a few shows now and I finally got to catch up with the children’s choir master, Christina Linton. I had seen hir working about in past shows, but never have gotten the inside scoop on the children’s choir. Christina teaches at the Claremont Community School of Music and has been central in awakening many students there at the school and in the larger community to opera.
Hir students who have come and participated in the operas have gotten so excited about it, ze says. And that excitement has also spread to many of their friends who have come to performances or joined the children’s chorus. Ze exclaimed, “It’s really been a great place” for them. And, some of you may not know that, one of the operas that the children participated in during the past year, the California Philharmonic was also going to perform it, they heard that the Repertory Opera Company already had a children’s chorus who knew all the music, and so all the children got to go perform in the California Philharmonic’s performances, too. Christina said that is was quite a thrill for hir and the children to go out into L.A. and perform at the Disney Concert hall.
Well, if you don’t have your tickets yet, visit www.repertoryoperacompany.org to reserve them! Come Saturday, Oct. 1st, 8th, or 15th, or to one on a weekday, Weds., Oct. 5th!
Tickets to Il Trovatore are a mere $30, and season tickets for all three operas in the coming year are a bargain $80. And you will come away energized and astounded, your ear holes filled to the brim with the simply amazing music and atmosphere that is — Pomona opera.
And here’s just a few more pictures I snapped at the dress rehearsal. Enjoy!!!!