Opera in Vallejo? Preposterous, but true. It’s not the San Francisco
Opera or L’Opera de Paris, or anything even remotely like them, but it’s
a living, breathing phenomenon playing here in our far-flung little
town and I doubt anyone can walk away unmoved.
Isn’t being moved
the reason we go to the opera?
All you need to do is open your
mind and allow yourself to feel the wrenching pain of Verdi’s
heart-breaking melodrama, Il Trovatori, playing now at a ramshackle (but
improving) theater in town, performed by good singers and a little
orchestra, who managed to transport us to exactly the place where the
composer and librettist wanted us to be — in the deepest, darkest depths
I experienced a variety of emotions — starting with pleasure at
having found a parking spot across the street on Broadway (try that in
New York or Paris), where I was greeted by the theater’s owner, who
opened the front door for me. I handed over $25 to the amiable ticket
seller, and chose a seat in the front row.
There were only a handful of
us in the audience, and all but two had grey hair (this is not an opera
for sissies). No curtain, no mise en scene, no frills, but pretty good
costumes, which allowed us to believe we were in an earlier time in
history, except for one fellow’s trousers which looked like his regular
A sceptic by nature, I was braced for the worst, but that never
happened. My emotions were stirred from the very first notes. To begin
with, I felt doubt and denial, but by the time that memorable Sunday
matinee performance played its final chords, I’d experienced the whole
gamut of emotions, including surprise, acceptance, astonishment, horror,
misery and utter despair.
My thoughts went out of control as
the opera unfolded. I resolved to write my last will and testament as
soon as I got home, and talk to my family about my final hours, or days,
or whatever. I recalled the horrible doctor who described my demise as
an agonizing scene with bloody needles and tubes. All sorts of terrible
images went through my mind while I witnessed the murder of one’s
children, torture of enemies, mothers burning alive at the stake,
suicide, fratricide, and the pain of unrequited love.
You’d think it’d be difficult to imagine the soprano who played
Leona as a beautiful young virgin maiden, or that her lover could be
played by a man who looked old enough to be her father, or that the
mother of the hero was young enough to be his granddaughter, but none of
The music did its job in spite of all obstacles.
the violinist, who played like Jack Benny, brought me back to reality
from time to time, but, it was a difficult piece to perform.
Nevertheless, the orchestra and singers learned the score, the lyrics,
the arias, the staging and movements; they changed costumes and lighting
and remembered their entrances and exits. They did their job well
enough to put me through the wringer for nearly three hours, and then
mercifully released me back into the sunshine of the day.
I recommend Il Trovatore, performed by the Verissimo Opera Company, at the Bay Area Stage Theater in downtown Vallejo.