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Skylight's 'Fidelio' links Dr. Seuss with Bollywood

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

September 26, 2013

 

WAUKESHA - New Artistic Director Viswa Subbaraman opens his premiere production at the Skylight Music Theatre with a very creative version of Beethoven’s “Fidelio.”

Collaborating with the visual-technical artist Raghava KK, Subbaraman has combined Indian culture and artistry with this 19th-century opera, Beethoven’s only venture into this musical genre. 

Sibbaraman, who doubles as the stage and music director, characterizes this production as a combination of Dr. Seuss and Bollywood. Choreographer Deepa Devasesa and costume designer Daren Brown-Larimore contributed their talents to generate a panorama of movement and color.

The basic story is one of the false imprisonment of Florestan and his wife, Leonore’s, attempt to rescue him. In order to access him, she poses as a man who gains employment with Florestan’s jailer Rocco.

Rocco is so fond of Fidelio (Leonore’s pseudonym) that he encourages him to marry his daughter Marzelline, who is presently being pursued by Rocco’s young gatekeeper Jaquino. She, however, is enamored of Fidelio, a strange turn of events to be sure.

If things aren’t complicated enough, Don Pizzaro enters and offers Rocco money to kill Florestan before the inspector general arrives to discover that his friend is still alive and has been unjustly incarcerated for two years. When Rocco refuses to do so, Pizzarro decides to take on the gruesome task himself. Meanwhile, Leonore is trying to save Florestan from the sword.

You can imagine that all things work together for the greater good and the greater drama when Fidelio, Florestan, Rocco, Inspector Fernando, Pizzaro, Marzelline and Jaquino all unite in the climactic scene when truth and romance triumph.

Operas are not known for their credibility, so suspend your disbelief at the door and enjoy the music and the visual banquet. Cassandra Black has a voice that meets the demands of her role as heroine, but her movements are clumsy and there is little chemistry between her and her husband, Florestan (Chase Taylor). Though their voices blend beautifully, neither exhibits the expected joy in reuniting.

Erica Schuller is perfectly suited for her portrayal as Rocco’s young smitten daughter. We are mesmerized by her presence and her flawless soprano voice. Jaquino, played by Eamon Pereyra, is delightful, very emotionally demonstrative. Rocco, the jailkeeper with a sense of ethics, is well rendered by Chris Besch. His diction matches the quality of his voice, a rarity with opera singers. Eric Mckeever’s beautiful baritone and proud stance as the conniving Pizzaro are also memorable.

The chorus and dancers add power and texture to the narrative. The music and movement are breathtaking at times, thanks to the plethora of creative talents gathered together by the Skylight team. Quite an introduction to the new artistic director.

“Fidelio” runs through Oct. 6 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit  www.skylightmusictheatre.org.