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BWW Review: THE IMPRESARIO at Enigma Chamber Opera

An international opera production which can be watched online for free

BWW Review: THE IMPRESARIO at Enigma Chamber Opera

There is a lot good about Enigma Chamber Opera's new meta-opera-comedy adaptation of Mozart's The Impresario, but the highest praise must be reserved for its formatting as a highly scroll-able hour-long entertainment (mainly because it is actually at most a 20 minute performance trapped inside a redundant, overdrawn explanation of and apology for itself). I understand the desire to deliver a full length work, but in stretching this novel concept over the course of an hour, artistic director and librettist Kirsten Z Cairns may have lead this project into the superfluous world of pandemic passion projects which Simon Robson's book ironically ridicules. Rather than present the satiric singspiel about artists at odds with each other, the company has updated the material, interwoven witty- if at times vindictive- commentary on the current state of the opera world, and built a silly, irreverent, contemporary adaptation of the work which fuses Zoom humor, text messages, and filmed performances to relay the tale of feuding divas and the men trying to coax them together.

I watched the whole thing. Here's my road map of how to get the most out of this fun project:

Watch the beginning. Right from the opening shot, as beams of morning light pierce through parted blinds- an antithesis to the grandiose parting of a red velvet drape- I was on board. You will first and foremost be given the premise through Robson's razor-sharp wit. Some cultural references land as hollow and cliche and the tone waxes hostile, but ultimately, as Sir Nick Hall, Robson is relatable in his bleak analysis of the state of the arts. The backbone of the piece becomes clear, and Hall's philosophical musings on legacy, artistic production, and cultural relevance provide a recurring touchstone throughout the ludicrous unfoldings. Thankfully, timely jokes are developed beyond simply mentioning break-out rooms, murder hornets, or toilet paper. A lot of it is funny.

We meet David Kravitz as Bluff, an oft-abused and ridiculed assistant to Hall. Stay for the early baking jokes, but then skip ahead a good chunk. The pacing here drops and there is not enough cleverness in Robson's punchlines to justify the double and triple explanations for what we are about to witness. At a point, I became insulted- how many times do they think they need to explain to me what is about to happen?

Katrina Galka saves us as THE Natasha GOLDENTRILL, a soprano who's self-tapes are played for those in the cheap seats rather than the camera balanced a few feet from her face. With piercingly crisp coloratura and un-muddled facial expressions to match, Galka elevates herself from stock character at the butt of a criticism to autonomous within the gag. She and Deborah Selig, who's self-aggrandizing Angela Silverpeal counters Galka's aria with equal resonance and mountains of spunk, are far and above the highlight of the production.

After the arias, a text message exchange between the men parallels a phone conversation between the women, who break character to discuss the gender politic of Mozart's original work. Though a quick interlude, this moment indicates the shortcoming of the rest of the video. Real world issues puncture the stock characters' universe- the #MeToo movement is summoned to the space, there is an imploring mention of the millions who have died from the virus, and eventually, there is a celebration at the discovery of a working COVID-19 vaccine. No longer are we in a universe of zany, topical silliness, but rather, our escapist bubble is popped and we graze past an unsatisfactory reality. Without the analysis or commentary to be productive, these mentions seem unnecessary and superficial.

Baroque choreography with an assortment of cocktails adds a delightful charm to the ensemble finale, cheekily clinking glasses through the familiar cyberspace grid. A montage of stock images with the singers' faces superimposed returns us to the lighthearted silliness which is successful earlier in the piece.

Check out the trailer for The Impresario here.

Watch the production for free here.

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