I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you “don’t do Opera” you’re crazy. Queen City Opera, helmed by founder and artistic director Isaac Selya, gives the everyman access to the simple beauty of good opera. From being seated on the floor with the orchestra, to the quirky clutter of the Arts Center at Dunham, QCO is an accessible and casual experience for the serious and curious alike.
The story of “Iolanta,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (of “Nutcracker” fame), centers on a young blind girl who happens to not realize that she’s blind. She spends her days surrounded by her nurses, vacillating between sobbing over life and swooning over the fragrant beauty of nature. Her sightless situation is buttressed by the fact that her father is the King, and she lives in a hidden paradise. Iolanta, performed by Raquel Gonzalez, is incredible. Her voice paints a vivid picture of sorrow and hope, sadness and desire. I didn’t need to see to get the idea.
When two wandering men stumble into Iolanta’s hidden gardens, her world is turned upside down. The mild-mannered, soon-to-be lovesick Gottfried (M. Andrew Jones), sings his heart out to win not only the love of Iolanta but the approval of her father, the King Rene (Stefan Egerstrom). The other wanderer happens to be the childhood betrothed of the princess, Duke Robert (Simon Barrad). As one might imagine, hijinks ensue.
A one-act performance of about an hour and forty minutes, “Iolanta” tells a story of sadness, loneliness, love, and redemption. The journey is fun, and musicianship is well worth the time and the (low) ticket price. I always seem to forget just how good the orchestra is, conducted both by Selya and associate music director Jesse Leong. It’s one of the few acts you can catch where you’re sitting right by the musicians and can feel the swells in your bones.
An opera singer, far from being “large and loud,” can bring beauty out of a whisper and send chills down your spine with a crashing crescendo. Queen City Opera delivers on all fronts.
There are just two performances to catch, Friday May 25 and Sunday May 27, at the Arts Center at Dunham.
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.