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Review: San Diego Opera Presents Andrea Carroll and Joshua Guerrero in Recital at Balboa Theatre

Opera Duo Demonstrates a Wide-Ranging Repertoire

By: Jun. 14, 2024
Review: San Diego Opera Presents Andrea Carroll and Joshua Guerrero in Recital at Balboa Theatre  Image
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About halfway into her two-hour plus recital with tenor Joshua Guerrero, soprano Andrea Carroll gave a well-earned compliment to their accompanist Stephen Hopkins for his technique and versatility. Both were challenged during the unusually varied program the two singers had fashioned.

Tenor Jonathan Guerrero headshot
Tenor Joshua Guerrero

The mix began with "Santa Lucia," a Neapolitan song Guerro sang as he entered stage right. After two less familiar selections from the genre, he revealed that his career as an award-winning opera singer had begun with the Neapolitan songs he’d sung in his early twenties while working as a Las Vegas gondolier. I’ve asked many successful singers over the years how they became interested in opera and prepared for a career as a singer. Gondoliering has never come up.

But it was easy to picture the hit Guerrero must have been as he steered through Vegas waters while singing traditional Italian love songs for romantic couples. Though at this concert, it did take a stanza or so before his tone sounded entirely comfortable.

Many opera singers, male and female, attempt forays into pop or jazz idioms. Few succeed. After years of training a voice for opera, it’s hard to turn off the resulting vocal precision and unamplified power and projection. Guerrero is an exception. He’d easily pass for a modern Italian crooner, and later in the evening he showed why he’s also an award-winning operatic tenor.

Soprano Andrea Carroll posing in profile on staircase
Soprano Andrea Carroll

Each time Guerrero finished a song, Carroll playfully pretended it was her turn and bounced onto the stage with the start of a cheerful coloratura theme from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the princess’s start of a conversation with equally cheerful birds. When it actually was her turn, she repeated the theme then outlined her own path to opera. She was singing when she “came from the womb,” and grew up with the music of cartoons and Broadway. She proved she still loved both with three more from Disney, followed by “Think of Me” from the Phantom of the Opera and “I could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. She did throttle back for the occasion, but as lovely and agile as her voice was, there was no doubt she was more toward the Andrew Lloyd Webber end of the Broadway spectrum rather than the next pop diva.

When Guerrero returned for a second time, he morphed effortlessly from Italian crooner to a Spanish one with a medley of two of the many boleros by Mexican singer Luis Miguel, followed by a tango of Argentine singer Carlos Gardel’s. All three songs are romantic Latin ballads that were huge hits, which, along with Guerrero’s Mexican birth, helps explain why I was overhearing more than the usual number of Spanish conversations in the lobby.

But by this time, many may have been wondering if the concert organized by San Diego Opera would include any opera. Carroll got closer with lieder by Rachmaninov, Schubert and Obradors. All are beautiful, and Carroll did them full justice. Not as easy as it may seem for the longest of the three, Schubert’s “Du bist die Rue” (You are the peace). She had the breath and tone control needed to fully realize the tender emotions in the composer’s long unbroken phrases.

Opera finally appeared when the audience was treated to a six-minute video San Diego Opera had produced featuring music of opera composer Daniel Catán. The video was set in a lush jungle-like area. It appeared that the voices were dubbed. San Diego Opera has been working on the integration of video with live performances.

After the video, pianist Hopkins offered a brief interlude of virtuosic display that led to four arias by Catán. The last, the first duet on the program, was “Arcadio! Rosalba!” from Florencia en el Amazonas, and the intermission followed.

The second half began with a second duet, “Nuit d’hymenee” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. Then it was back to alternating solos, all four from the standard operatic repertoire.

But wait! There’s more! Two zarzuelas from Guerrero with an anecdote added about how he placed second when he sang one of them in the zarzuela portion of Placido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia. He suspects he should have sung the one Domingo suggested.

The formal program ended with “Tonight” a favorite duet from West Side Story. But wait! There’s even more, three encores, though by this time, I think some in the audience weren’t at all sure they wanted all of them. (The few readers still with me at this point may sympathize).

Stephen Hopkins, Andrea Carroll and Jonathan Guerrero Take at Curtain Call
Stephen Hopkins, Andrea Carroll and Joshua Guerrero Take at Curtain Call

It wasn't that the program was too long. It just wasn’t as well designed as it might have been. The emphasis on solos was disappointing because the pair blended so beautifully and convincingly in the duets that were included.

And even though both singers were delightfully personable and have strong, versatile voices, the frequent switches of genres was overdone. There’s a reason the tracks in a commercial recording don’t jump from Puccini to polkas to plainchant. It would be exhausting to keep up with and, to say the least, limit the potential audience.

This review was of a June 8th performance.

Photos (Karli Cadel) compliments of San Diego Opera .


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