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Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens

Life is Hard for a Working Girl

Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens

Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens The Copper Queen is an opera on film in the manner of the Tebaldi/Loren Aida and the Pavarotti/Freni Boheme of times gone by. The difference is that The Copper Queen is a modern opera for our own century by composer Clint Borzoni and librettist John de los Santos that tells of times past in Bisbee, Arizona. Slightly less than five years ago it won an Arizona Opera competition that insured its place onstage. It had several successful workshops, but because of the pandemic and the fact that currently audience size is quite limited, The Copper Queen became a film that can be experienced online.

Director Crystal Manich, is a versatile Latinx artist whose works for stage and screen have been seen in the United States, Argentina, and Australia. Manley Films is the official film production sponsor of Arizona Opera. The opera tells of the hard life a woman could be forced to live in nineteenth century Bisbee, a mining town in Arizona. Addison, a twenty-first century writer goes to Bisbee's Copper Queen Hotel and spends a night in room 315 to investigate the reports of ghostly appearances. Opera scenes switch from nineteenth century to twenty-first century as the story unfolds.

Director Manich presents us with the unvarnished truth about the life of a mining town working girl doing the only job a woman could hold. Julia Lowell, daughter of the hotel owner, has male "visitors" to her third floor room. She has so many of them that her father built a ramp directly to her window from the street. She falls in love with a man named Theodore and expects him to leave his wife for her. When he does not, she tries to escape on her own but her father catches and kills her in a rage. At the end of the opera we realize that Addison probably dreamed the story.

Borzoni's opera begins as recitative between Addison and the hotel clerk, then another with Julia and a client. Like some Verdi operas, The Copper Queen has a plethora of duets, but it is in the arias where characters state their opinions that Borzoni comes into his own musically. While the character sings a unique line above, the orchestra plays gorgeous symphonic music in accompaniment.

Vanessa Becerra was an attractive Julia who sings with lyrical tones while making this century's people aware of what life was like for her. Addison, played by Sarah Coit was more dramatic in tone as she voiced her comments about current technology that did not work in her room. Joshua Dennis played Theodore Billings as a sincerely unhappy husband who was afraid of the public scrutiny a change in his marital status would bring. He is a villain whose self-interest is understandable.

Keith Phares' character, Daddy Lowell, is simply interested in the money his daughter brings him. She has tried unsuccessfully to run away before and he knows if left alive she would eventually succeed. Its his darkly-shaded baritone voice, he showed us the true villainy of his character. Conductor Daniela Candillari led the performance with moderately propulsive tempi that kept the drama moving forward.

The Copper Queen is an interesting and musically satisfying work that deserves its place in the operatic repertoire, especially for the cities of the Southwest. The Copper Queen film will be available for pre-sale on Arizona Opera OnDemand for the price of $30 starting October 1, 2021, and released for viewing on November 5, 2021 until it is taken off Arizona Opera OnDemand on January 4, 2022.

Photo oif Vaness Becerra courtesy of Tim Trumble.

AZOpera.
Regional Awards


From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)


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