A brief opera about a brief life

Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve taps into the emotions.
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Soprano Claire Divizio
The libretto of La Vida Breve by Carlos Fernandez-Shaw presents more dramatic obstacles for the stage director than dramatic verisimilitude, and yet one can’t help but love this opera.
Manuel de Falla wrote it around 1904-1905 but did not see it on stage until it was done in a French translation in Nice in 1913.
At the time of its composition de Falla had not had much experience writing for the stage. The young composer, still in his twenties sought the advice of Claude Debussy, an older composer whom de Falla much admired.
Debussy told him after the work’s premiere to go back to the drawing board and cut out all the starts and stops, so typical of the zarzuela genre prevalent on Spanish stages at the turn of the century.
Six months later de Falla had the entire score re-written and ready for its Paris premiere.
Shame that La Vida Breve (The Brief Life) is not produced more often these days. The score, barely an hour-long,  is rich in melody and as generous to the orchestra as it is to its singers.
The cast of three principals and a half-dozen supporting roles plus chorus has no down time. There is a terrific dance sequence in act II and an Intermedio depicting sunset in Granada which is often heard in symphonic concerts.
And there is high-stakes melodrama.
The opera rides on the shoulders of its conductor and its principal female character, Salud a gypsy woman in love with Paco, an upper-class man about to be married to one of his own kind.
Trouble looms ahead.
In the upcoming production of Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve (The Brief Life), scheduled to run at NKU on November 11-13, soprano Claire Divizio sings the role of Salud.
Having under her belt the roles of the Il Trovatore Leonora, Giorgietta in Il Tabarro, and Hanna in The Merry Widow bodes well for the young Chicago-based soprano, who is about to step into some sizeable shoes previously worn by two of the greatest Spanish singers of the 20th century, Victoria de los Angeles and Teresa Berganza.
NKU and The Cincinnati Chamber Opera are jointly bringing to life La   Vida Breve, in a production helmed by music director Stephen Variames and stage director Marcus Shields.
Also in the cast, tenor Pedro Arroyo sings Paco and mezzo-soprano Melissa Bonetti plays the role of Abuela.
Tickets and information: 513 580 4440 http://www.cincinnatichamberopera.org

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