BOP’s ‘Goyescas’ hits a high note

Brown Opera Productions’ “Goyescas,” a Spanish opera inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya, triumphed in its three performances this weekend. Written in three tableaux, the opera explores two parallel love stories – Goya and his lover Leocadia and Rosario and Fernando, two characters in one of the artist’s paintings.

Besides operatic voices, a production of “Goyescas” also calls for elegant dancers, convincing actors and powerful music, all of which BOP strongly delivered. Brown’s orchestra played the original score by Enrique Grandados, which offered a strong accompaniment to the emotional performance.

The story begins in the painting studio of the artist (Kyle Dillon ’09), who is showing his lover Leocadia (Autumn Graham ’09) his most recent painting. Expressed through ballet rather than song, the movements of the dancers revealed the playful and intimate relationship between the two lovers. At the end of the overture, Goya and Leocadia, hand-in-hand, dash through a large frame together, symbolic of their entrance into the world of Goya’s paintings.

Tableau I begins outside in a square as the Majos, a group of young bohemians, enjoy the day. On Friday night, singing was not the strong point of the initial few minutes of the first tableau. Audience members struggled to hear the Majos over the orchestra and had to depend on the English subtitles projected above the stage. The strength of the performance was in the acting. Paquiro, a flirtatious character played comically by Patrick Ramsey ’07, entered the scene wooing the ladies until his sweetheart, Pepa – strongly portrayed as confident and controlling by Christie Gibson ’06 – arrived at the square.

Several minutes into the tableau, Rosario (Sonia Nayak ’08) enters the scene. Rosario’s beauty may halt the festivities in the world of the painting, but it was Nayak’s voice that literally stunned the audience. Her voice was strong, emotional and feminine, and she sang the Spanish words as if she were speaking her native tongue.

Paquiro is quick to invite Rosario to a lantern-lit ball, but his courting is immediately interrupted by Rosario’s love, Fernando (Alexander Ebin ’07), jealous and fearful of Paquiro’s interaction with Rosario. Ebin exuded the masculinity, intensity and the sense of honor of men described in 18th-century Spanish literature. His voice revealed his character’s passion and pain caused by his love for Rosario.

Following the first tableau is another ballet scene in the studio with Goya and Leocadia. She struggles for Goya’s affections as he becomes increasingly obsessed with his current painting. While Graham expressed feelings of hurt and frustration, Dillon ably portrayed his ambivalence through graceful movement.

The opera continues in this back-and-forth manner between Goya’s studio and the tableaux, providing insight into his personal struggle between the world of his reality and his art. Brown Opera Productions’ “Goyescas,” with the talent of its singers, dancers and musicians, left the audience impressed and touched in a performance that brought forth the complexity of what separates love from obsession.