In Tchaikovsky’s 1892 opera, Iolanta (his last), the composer’s brother Modeste, author of the libretto, based it on Henrik Hertz’s play Kong Renés Datter, a semi historical Danish language play about a blind princess. Tchaikovsky and his brother treat the subject of psychological blindness sensitively, sufficiently romanticizing it so as to make this one-act tale about the healing power of love something more than a scientific tract.
More than a century later, the first ever documented case of psychological blindness was treated in America when Shirl Jennings recovered his loss of sight becoming at first psychologically overwhelmed by the visual saturation to which his newly-recovered sight subjected him, ultimately becoming a painter.
The subject proved so fascinating that the movie, At First Sight and, later, Brian Friel’s play Molly Sweeney, and Dr. Oliver Saks’ book An Anthropologist in Mars all three dealt with the same story in markedly different ways.
Art may imitate life although it does not have to slavishly replicate it, and thus Tchaikovsky’s one-act romantic fairy tale makes for a fascinating evening of lyric theatre. Welcome then the enterprising Queen City Chamber Opera now gearing up to bring to the Queen City the first ever local production of the tale of Iolanta.
The young Isaac Selya helms this little company that could and has and will, assembling a very fine cast of young up and coming singers. In the title role, soprano Raquel Gonzalez will find love in the arms of tenor M. Andrew Jones (Count Vaudemont) against the wishes of Stefan Egerstrom (King Rene) and in spite of the cautious advise of bass-baritone, Adam Cioffari (medicine man Ibn-Hakia).
Baritone Simon Barrad is love-sick, Robert, and an assortment of courtiers and retinue is in the capable hands of several of this area’s finest singers: Shareese Arnold, Melisa Bonetti, Lauren Mc Allister, Travis Pearce and Junbo Zhou.
Maestro Isaac Selya paces the production, which has been staged by Rebecca Herman, and designed by Lizzie Duquette (set), Joy Galbraith (costumes), and Larry Cserink (lighting). Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad is the Russian-language coach. The opera will be sung in the original Russian, with projected English translations.
Performances will take place Friday May 25 at 8.00 pm and Sunday May 27 at 3.00 pm,
both at the Arts Center at Dunham (1945 Dunham Way). Tickets are available by visiting https://iolantaopera.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.
Rafael de Acha