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Review: "Opera goes to the movies"

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IO Chorus and Rachele Gilmore sing Il dolce suono from Lucia di Lammermoor featured in The Fifth Element - DENIS RYAN KELLY JR.
  • Denis Ryan Kelly Jr.
  • IO Chorus and Rachele Gilmore sing Il dolce suono from Lucia di Lammermoor featured in The Fifth Element

Opera is already a hybrid of theater and music. What happens when we further combine it with motion pictures? On Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, Indianapolis Opera did an altogether outstanding job of blending the two, with a host, seven singers, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra conducted by James Caraher and short excerpts from 21 classic films projected onto a big screen above the performers.

Sometimes we heard singing from the movie tracks, other times from our live complement: sopranos Rachele Gilmore, Angela Gribble and Stella Zambalis; mezzo Davia Brandy; tenors Jon Jurgens and Mark Thomsen; baritone Mark Gilgallon; and the IO chorus. Phil van Hest, a comedic performer from Los Angeles -- and now an Indy resident -- served as host to the proceedings.

A number of the film excerpts: including The Untouchables, Moonstruck, Fatal Attraction and Philadelphia supplied all their music (and some dialogue) from the film tracks, whereas The Blues Brothers, Breaking Away, The Shawshank Redemption, Cape Fear and the Godfather trilogy, among others, blended the movie tracks with the live singing, all from operas featured in those films. (With the Godfather I would have preferred hearing parts of Nino Rota's famous film score so strongly identified with this threesome rather than the more light-weight music from Mascagni's opera Cavelleria Rusticana, but that wasn't the name of this "game.") This production's marvel was the seamless transitions, including blending of the films with live-screen video of the performers from front and side angles.

Among the singers, Gilmore's vocalism showed the best control, but the others were close -- as these comparisons go. Appearing often, the chorus was exemplary. Van Hest's comedic remarks occasionally went over the top. Otherwise this unique production proved an unqualified success. March 9 and 11, Clowes Memorial Hall.

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