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Luisa Fernanda

Los Angeles
Chandler's Pavilion
06/03/2007 -  5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16 June 2007
Federico Moreno Torroba: Luisa Fernanda
Yali-Marie Williams (Luisa Fernanda), Plácido Domingo (Vidal Hernando), Antonio Gandía (Javier Moreno), Elena de la Merced (Duchess Carolina), Suzanna Guzmán (Mariana), Daniel Montenegro (Aníbal), Camille Zamora (Rosita), Federico Gallar (Don Luis Nogales), Gregorio González (Bizco Porras), David Robinson (A Street Seller), David Lomelì (Savoyard), Levi Hernandez (Don Lucas), Valeriano Lanchas (Don Florito Fernández), Daniel Armstrong (A Captain), Robert Hovencamp (An Olive Harvester), Lisa Crave (A Coconut Seller), Sal Malaki (First Guy), Stephen Arel (Second Guy), Francis Lucaric (A Man)
Los Angeles Opera Chorus, William Vendice (Chorus master), Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, Miguel Roa (Conductor)
Emilio Sagi (Director/Set Designer), Nuria Castejón (Associate Director/Choreographer), Paul Taylor (Co-Set Designer), Pepa Ojanguren (Costumer Designer), Mary Louise Geiger (Lighting Designer)

The Los Angeles Opera’s 2006-2007 season comes to a close with a wonderful selection from the genre of zarzuela. Zarzuela is similar to French opéra comique in that it incorporates dialogue and song, yet it maintains its own distinct set of Spanish themes, rhythms and melodies. Of notable interest, zarzuela originates from the word, la zarzuela, also the name of King Philip IV’s hunting lodge outside Madrid which is surrounded by brambles or literally translated, . This famed locale was used to bring theatrical works from the capital to the lodge’s stage, ranging from classical opera to lighter venues such as operetta and eventually zarzuela.

Having grown up with parents who performed zarzuelas for a livelihood, Plácido Domingo is the perfect fit for the beautiful work of Luisa Fernanda. Although little known in The United States, Federico Moreno Torroba was an accomplished composer in almost every aspect of classical music including symphony, instrumental, ballet, opera and . His notoriety today, however, rests with only two works, La Chulapona (1934) and Luisa Fernanda (1932).

Southern California’s Luisa Fernanda draws true Spanish flair by combining the talents of several Spanish-born figureheads. Before the curtain rises one sees Emilio Sagi’s and Paul Taylor’s magnificent model city, guarded by the white block letters of “Madrid”, and displayed against a black background. Despite a minimalist set, the props that are used amply clarify a scene’s location while the time of day is formed by Mary Louise Geiger’s unusual lighting. At times the chiaroscuro technique accentuates the meticulous details of Spanish designer Pepa Ojanguren who uses every shade of black and white imaginable to punctuate details of Iberian dress yet never competing with the talents of performers on stage and in the orchestra pit. This is a stunning piece of creativity.

On opening night the indisposed Maria José Montiel is replaced by Puerto Rican-born Yali-Marie Williams in the title role. Making her LA Opera debut, Williams’ rendition of a love torn woman is a perfect fit with the nonpareil Plácido Domingo both of whom sing their roles with the utmost believability and passion.

Completing the troubled love triangle is Duchess Carolina, performed by the feisty Elena de la Merced. Luisa Fernanda has many beautiful numbers, one in particular being the duet with Antonio Gandía’s Javier Moreno whose clarion voice compliments the sultry richness of Duchess Carolina.

Supporting roles are equally worthy of note including L.A. Opera’s favorite Suzanna Guzmán as the innkeeper, Daniel Montenegro’s Aníbal, Federico Gallar’s casting as Don Luis Nogales and Bizco Porras as performed by Gregorio González.

The fluid movements on stage are credited to choreographer Nuria Castejó while the chorus vitality originates with William Vendice. These combined talents are especially represented in two group numbers including the elegant sombrilleros in Act II and the wedding festivities on Vidal Herndando’s estate in Act III. A successful Luisa Fernanda is not complete without proper grounding of Federico Moreno Torroba’s lovely music which is deftly handled by Miguel Roa.

This month Southern California has a grand honor to experience the genre of zarzuela. We are indebted to the expertise of all directors and designers who make the work of Luisa Fernanda possible, specifically citing Mr. Domingo’s love for his native country’s music, and, hopefully, to be the first among many more to come in the world of zarzuela. Do not miss this chance to see a first class production with a first class team.

Christie Grimstad



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