Mixing Cuban Rhythms into Contemporary Opera – Before Night Falls

Fort Worth, TX- The excitement in Bass Hall on Saturday night was palpable. Before Night Falls was one of the most highly anticipated new operas this year thanks to a well designed marketing plan by Fort Worth Opera. The hype surrounding the piece was well deserved, and could, hopefully, give it a life in the contemporary repertoire after a few needed tweaks.

The opera, Before Night Falls, is based on the memoir, which shares the same title, by Cuban dissident, Renaldo Arenas (Rey). After realizing that Castro’s Revolutionary Army does not stand for Rey’s idealistic view of freedom, he spends the rest of his life suffering because of his love for Cuba and hatred of the socialist regime. Rey’s life as a homosexual and outspoken author provides the foundation for grand-style opera, but the artistic team allowed the story to overshadow the set – a simple ‘S’ curved backdrop accompanied by a number of other drops of which provided canvases for a successfully projected set of palm trees, buildings, and video clips.

In the opera’s present state, the role of Rey could possibly be the most demanding baritone role in the repertoire. Wes Mason sang the role with great authority and vocal prowess and also displayed impressive dance ability as the opera was beautifully choreographed by John de los Santos. Jesus Garcia and Seth Mease Carico stood out as the strongest voices in the cast. Garcia, playing the role of Ovidio, Rey’s mentor, has a grippingly intense tone that was well suited to the pivotal role. Victor, a leader in the revolutionary army was convincingly played by Carico, who has a dramatic and rich bass-baritone voice.

The first act of the opera could use some further attention to really refocus the arc of the story, which would allow the very beautiful and emotionally intense parts of the beginning to shine through. Jorge Martin, the Cuban born composer, orchestrates a lush score with shades of Debussy, Bernstein, and many other 19th century composers. The Cuban flavor is developed well within the music, as well as a dynamic use of the opera’s chorus.

Fort Worth Opera is becoming a great place for new and contemporary works to take flight – Frau Margot, Angels in America, last year’s Dead Man Walking and, now, Before Night Falls. Contrary to popular belief – ‘Cowtown’ is a motivated, cultural community and very receptive to the ever-important necessity of new art.

Catch Before Night Falls again on June 6th, 2010.

Fort Worth Opera: 817.731.0726

Toll Free: 1.877.396.7372

www.fwopera.org