La Reina – Review

[This review is based on mere snippets of the overall opera. The performance was part of the New Works Sampler at the 2012 Opera America Conference. Click here to find all of the works showcased at the conference or please find them at the end of this review.]

Stealing the show was American Lyric Theater’s (ALT) new project, La Reina, by Jorge Sosa and screenwriter Laura Sosa. The work has come about in ALT’s Composer Librettist Development Program. La Reina is a “docufiction narrative” and “is loosely based on the life of Sinaloan drug trafficker Sandra Ávila Beltrán, dubbed ‘La Reina del Pacifico’ (The Queen of the Pacific) by the media.” American Lyric Theater had nearly everything going for them on this presentation including bedazzling mezzo-soprano, Audrey Babcock. Ms. Babcock has an electrifying voice and negotiates the contrast of silken humbleness and intense madness with paralyzing ferociousness. Add such a strong voice to her ability to embody a character and her chiseled physique – she’s a force to be reckoned with! The scene, entitled Aria a la Santa Muerte, was that of Beltrán undergoing a strange hallucinatory condition due to extended imprisonment, known as el carcelazo. The electronically produced high-pitched screeches Sosa orchestrates serve as a dictator of Beltran’s madness and gives us the feeling that her cold prison cell bars are not only screaming, but bending and twisting their way towards her. Some sounds were a bit distracting from the colors of Babcock’s voice, but most likely with proper sound equipment the right balance can be obtained. The shining moment comes at the end of the aria. Beltran sings “Escucha me!” (Listen to me!) with a brilliant dynamic contrast of fortissimo at the start of the phrase to pianissimo on the last two syllables. This signified utmost frustration and utter helplessness in just two words. The screeching that remained at the end of her last outburst acted as an echo of tormenting noises seeming to laugh at her ineffective cries. I met up with Jorge afterward to ask why so much screeching was necessary. He responded, “She’s in a prison cell and the bars are crushing in on her – It’s just (as he cringes his shoulders)… creepy.”

Photo: Katherine Ehle/OPERA America

More Reviews from the New Works Sampler

Cecilio Valdés, King of Havana

The ultra-suave stylings of the first number were alluring and sexy… Read More »

Oceanic Verses

Beth Morrison Projects has been getting some seriously cool press as of late and I couldn’t help but be quite anxious to receive one of her new projects… Read More »


On to the third selection in the program – a co-comissioned piece by The Santa Fe Opera and the Opera Company of Philadelphia that “tells the story of Oscar Wilde’s last years… Read More »


Love/Hate is a comical fantasia that seeks to expose love’s “old paradox for a new era” by wildly portraying all stereotypical situations of relationships and enacting them simultaneously among four key characters… Read More »

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