A View from the Cliff: Verdi’s “Masquerade” at Regina Opera Company

Cruel conspiracies. Doomed love triangles. Shameless betrayals.  Welcome to the opera!  In the 1800s, renowned operatic composer Giuseppe Verdi completed another masterpiece, “Un Ballo in Maschera.” The story unfolds in the colony of Massachusetts with its deadly conspiratorial climax at a masquerade ball.

Now, it’s a warm Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn and the orchestra begins tuning its instruments. Concertmaster Yelena Savranskaya finds her note on the violin and the rest of the musicians do the same. The Regina Opera Company’s President Fran Garber-Cohen walks center stage for the customary announcements. Blackout. Spotlight. Enter Conductor Gregory Ortega. Curtain. Lights! The opera has begun.

Tenor Benjamin Sloman as Royal Governor Riccardo demonstrates his stage presence both vocally and visually from the very first moments. His talent is undeniable. Of course he is in love with his best friend’s wife, Amelia (soprano Michelle Pretto). She very capably portrays her conflicted, guilt-ridden character with operatic fervor. Not only does she sing beautifully, she provides a real sense of love and fear when interacting with the protagonists.

Baritone Andrew Cummings is Renato, the governor’s blindly jealous friend.  He projects a terrifying image onstage that is completely riveting.  His acts of violence and contrition are truly dynamic. Supporting players include Amy Palomo as the governor’s page, Oscar.  She is a delightfully lighthearted addition to the production.

Her opposite is contralto Jessica Lynn French as the fortune teller. Her dark predictions are fulfilled as the story reaches its inevitable high point. Conspirators Samuel (Jacopo Buora) and Tom (Hector Mori) send shivers through the audience with their plots of vengeance.  Supporting singers Gene Howard, Ray Calderon and Thomas Geib perform admirably. The large ensemble that dances at the masquerade ball and adds color to every scene is always well polished.

Sets (Tyler Learned) and costumes (Julia Cornely, Alexa Burt) are tasteful and elegant. Stage director Linda Lehr clearly has an outstanding appreciation of Verdi’s sense of irony and her actor’s charisma. Bravo to the entire cast, both onstage and behind the scenes.

The Regina Opera Company currently performs at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Auditorium located at 5902 Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn. For information on this and future productions, call its main office at 718-259-2772 or visit www.reginaopera.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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