A View from the Cliff: Regina Joins NY Opera Fest with Puccini

The power, beauty and diversity of opera continues to gain momentum with the first annual New York Opera Festival. More than 50 organizations, including the Regina Opera Company, are participating in the event. It runs from May through June with impressive performances throughout the city, not the least of which is Regina’s rendition of Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut.”

At the opening performance, principal conductor Gregory Ortega leads the orchestra of almost three dozen musicians. As usual, they provide outstanding accompaniment for the entire production. The music builds to a crescendo and explodes with intensity at the most exciting passages. Although the composition stands by itself, there are supertitles above the stage to help translate the action.

Soprano Sabrina Palladino portrays the anguished beauty, Manon Lescaut. She is filled with human failings. In fact, she is captured by the guard after wasting precious time collecting her gold and jewels. These faults ultimately destroy her own future, bringing down her lover as well. In the final act, they have fled Europe only to meet disaster in the deserts of America. Ms. Palladino’s anguished death throes are classic opera hyperbole. Brava!

Portraying Des Grieux, tenor Percy Martinez gives a tireless interpretation. His futile attempts to bring Manon from the depths of folly, death and despair are palpable. Meanwhile, the evil Geronte is played with chilling cruelty by bass John Schenkel. The good but ever manipulative Lescaut is played with energy and intensity by baritone Nathan Matticks.

Principal Stage Director Linda Lehr delivers another high quality cast with familiar faces in supporting roles. A separate group of leading performers appears on alternate days. The attractive sets are a contrast of earth tones and bright colors. Costumes (Julia Cornely) are equally impressive. Producer Francine Garber-Cohen, as expected, interacts with the audience throughout the day.

Overall, the consistent quality of the troupe, based on 46 seasons of excellence, is well suited to participate in the New York Opera Fest. What is the secret of the continuing resurgence of opera throughout the city? Well, it’s a family affair for at least one group of participants. They boast two musicians in the orchestra and a daughter onstage!

For information on this major event, check nyoperafest.com. For directions and tickets for Regina, surf to reginaopera.org, or call 718-259-2772. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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