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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Life + Arts

Opera has something for everyone

Moores School of Music hosted Daniel Catan’s “Il Postino” this past weekend, much to the pleasure of opera goers in Houston.

Performed in Spanish with English subtitles, the opera focuses on the friendship of the poet Pablo Neruda and the love-struck postman, Mario Ruoppola. The opera takes place in the 1950s and is set primarily on Cala di Sotto, a small Italian island.

According to the program notes, “Il Postino” had its premier with the Los Angeles Opera in September of 2010. This means that UH’s production of the opera will be completed before the initial round of professional productions of the opera is completed.

The composer of the opera, Daniel Catan, even traveled to UH for several rehearsals with students and was at the Saturday and Sunday performances of the opera.

After being fortunate enough to watch the Friday night performance, it is not surprising that Catan took the time to do this.

The cast and crew of this production are excellent at what they do. Galeano Salas, who played the postman Mario Ruoppolo in the Friday and Sunday cast, was particularly thrilling to watch.

He held the entire audience captive throughout his performance with his golden voice and perfect comedic timing. Salas really knows how to project.

The chemistry between Salas and Joseph Evans, who portrays the real life poet, Pablo Neruda, was evident throughout the performance.

A particularly humorous scene in the opera happens when Neruda tries to teach Mario what a metaphor is. Mario’s innocent excitement of his new discovery had the audience chuckling, laughing, and then applauding.

Jared Guest was convincing as the corrupt politician, Di Cosimo. And, Sarah Lysiak was a pleasure to watch as Naruda’s wife, Matilde. Lysiak imbued her character with the quirkiness and sensuality befitting the wife of a poet.

Jessica Jones, who played Mario’s love interest, Beatrice Russo, gave another excellent performance. In addition to her beautiful voice, Jones seemed quite comfortable on the stage. Towards the end of the opera she sings a chilling piece that certainly prompted the tear ducts of quite a few audience members to fill.

Carrie Reid-Knox, who plays Beatrice’s aunt, Donna Rosa, gave another great performance. Rosa is one of the funniest characters in the opera, and Knox definitely helps to make that happen.

In addition to having a great cast, the production also clearly has a very talented set design team.

Many of the backdrops used in the production look like moving impressionist paintings. This helps to create a somewhat dreamy effect in many of the scenes and helps transport the audience from their seats in the Moores Opera House onto the beaches of Cala di Sotto.

The highly talented orchestra also plays a prominent role in this transportation.

This is a modern opera that anyone can enjoy — it’s not one of those shows where you count and tally the amount of songs left until you can sneak out during the intermission.

In fact, you will likely find yourself absent-mindedly humming melodies from the opera after the performance is over, and speaking in metaphors to your friends.

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