(A view of the Florida Grand Opera at night.)
Just fifteen minutes from the pastel-stained waterfront of Miami’s Collins Avenue…in a vacant, concrete sprawl of a South Beach after-thought, awaits a promising contender: The Florida Grand Opera. Florida? Grand opera house? Oh yes. Yes indeed.
At Miami’s newly-erected Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Chic heard something quite sublime at last night's breathtaking la prima of the Renata Scotto-directed, Richard Bonynge-conducted Bellini's La Sonnambula.
Upon exiting the busy loops of highway that circle Miami, an auspicious auditorium beckons impressively: the façade is a gorgeous mix of clean, green-blue glass, white slabs of pure concrete, luminous and warm marble, and kinetic, golden fountains. The lobby promises even more: stark-white, exposed skeletal structures of the towering construction gleam and entwine towards the enormous ceiling. Unfortunately, after the mind wraps around it all, the interior morphs into that of a giant cruise-ship, and you can’t help but feel like you are embarking on an adventure aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line.
(all aboard! The interior of the Florida Opera House: Miami, Florida, USA.)
The interior auditorium is well thought-out, with clear visibility from all areas, including spatial “partial view” balcony boxes (which officially hold four seats, but you could easily crowd a family of twenty). The only problem is that I seriously think the interior auditorium was designed by the same guy who did the monolith McMansion Manhattan Mormon Temple in Columbus Circle (this heathen visited a few summers ago before it was ordained). It’s covered in ersatz cherry-wood paneling, and then covered again in swaths of coffee-colored, patterned fabric...like a giant Marriot conference room or something. The centered ceiling design resembles giant snow peas (pics coming).
(More interior of the Florida Opera House.)
Luckily, the performance was strong enough to ferry me away from the nouveau riche interior: Mr. Dame Joan Sutherland's conducting was lovely and with excellent structure, providing the perfect accompaniment for the excellent bel canto of soprano Leah Partridge’s Amina. Her clear, sweet, and precise voice strongly reflected the practiced, skilled tone of the entire cast (go Renata go)! Her coloratura and legato stayed warm and beautiful, even through to her last aria, "Ah, non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore," (which is also carved on Bellini’s tomb – and btw, Rossini and Cherubini both held the funeral shroud at the death of the beloved 33-year-old composer in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery.)
Bruce Sledge's Elvino was well-matched to Partridge's gorgeous color – and although he is no JDF – his tenor was a pleasure. David Pittsinger’s Count Rodolfo was also well-executed, with great coherence and anchoring.
The pint-sized Renata Scotto (who sat front row center, and was all smiles during the final curtain call *pictures coming tomorrow*) teamed with Carlo Diappi for sets and costume production, which were minimal, however perfect.
A papier-mâché-esque, giant apple tree was the only scenery for the opening act, to suggest the bucolic, idyllic Swiss village square. Later, it was swapped with a huge, limbed tree for the final sleepwalking scene, where Amina’s stunt double (i saw what u did there) precariously walked the high limb above the stage. A sweet touch during the final wedding scene was confetti released from cavities in the ceiling...showering the audience with bits of colored paper.
It was a flawless evening, and will remain wedged as one of the most memorable opera events. This jaded girl (who rubs shoulders with old European snobbery at La Scala almost weekly) found something quite transcendent in the provincial suburbs of Miami, with super-titles above the stage flashing in both English and Spanish.
(exterior of the Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami, Florida, USA.)
Now Opera Chic must return to the lush beds of her South Beach hotel, so tomorrow she can enjoying her last morning of splayed palm trees, warm February sun (ok ok today was a little overcast and tomorrow is supposed to drizzle but whatevs I'm golden), and café cubano before heading back to NYC. Tomorrow OC also promises exciting additional images from the La Sonnambula la prima.