From You, OK. I Learned It From Watching You: PEDR SOLIS

Brian Church, Baritone in the title role of Pedr Solis. Photo by Liz Linder Photography.

Brian Church, Baritone in the title role of Pedr Solis. Photo by Liz Linder Photography.

Presented by Guerilla Opera and The Boston Conservatory
Music by Per Bloland
Libretto by Paul Schick
Directed by Laine Rettmer

May 15 – 23, 2015
The Zack Box
8 The Fenway
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Pedr Solis is an avant garde (i.e. strange), dark, messy beast of a prog rock opera. It’s set, props, and libretto are highly conceptualized and feature the most abstract of metaphors. The staging is full-contact. It should be a complete mess but it isn’t. Rather, as a logical, relatively objective reviewer I found it quite entertaining. As an over-educated audience member relying on her emotions to determine if she had a good time, I found my experience less than satisfying.  

This dichotomy of heavenly against the grotesque is not new to opera goers. Many of us find ourselves determined to have a good time despite the shortcomings of  the venue and/or performers. To be clear: such was not the case at Pedr Solis. The performers, orchestra, staging, and effects were all in good order. Unfortunately, the linguistically diverse libretto and corresponding plot lacked continuity. Even with the detailed programme synopsis, the opera was impossible to follow.

The plot was made more difficult to follow due to the unequal sound distribution between vocals and orchestration. The orchestra dominated and the vocals suffered. Lighter orchestration revealed an interesting juxtaposition of sound and word. The vocalists put great effort into their diction. Interesting word choices such as “critter,” a word infrequently used in opera, were highlighted. It sounded like the libretto was great fun to enunciate. However, heavier orchestration meant that, even if we could suss out plot particulars, we couldn’t understand what our cast was singing. A shame since they acted the crap out of their music.

Pedr Solis is to opera what drag queens are to women. It’s not a replication so much as a new, hyper-edgy subcategory in the genre. Gorgeous dissonances lead into consonances so satisfying they were like sweet delays of pleasure. Which makes thematic sense as the cast donned black, cotton gimp masks crying mylar tears when representing Loki, god of trickery. It wasn’t exactly a good time, per say, but it sure was interesting.

 

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