Chas a Goyescas!

The company of Goyescas at In Series (Photo: Angelisa Gillyard)

Goyescas is nothing short of a magical production. The beautiful cast depicts a genuine scope in the early 20th-century Spanish lifestyle. Enrique Granados would be thrilled if he was alive to see this mesmerizing production. 

Costume designer, Donna Breslin displays her expertise in Spanish fashion. Clad in red, black, and white chiffon corsets; the women presented an authentic Spanish style. All of which came together to transport the audience to the height of the Spanish Renaissance. Within the first few piano strokes, I could guarantee you that Enrique Granados was doing high-kicks in his grave; rejoicing over director Jaime Coronado’s artistic perspective on Goyescas.

Maestro Rodriguez was an absolute thrill on the piano. Instantly, he became a crowd favorite. The opera was a magical experience that still cannot be described except through one Spanish phrase I learned that night, Chas! – not Chaz as in myself, but Chas, a Spanish idiom, such as “cheers” when drinking beer friends. Chas! Chas! Chas a Goyescas!

Set designer Jonathan Dahm Robertson and lighting designer Stefan Johnson used the minimal set to such various degrees. On stage right: two-top tables along with Maestro Rodriguez at the piano. Stage left: a wooden door, one of three major entrances. Dividing the set in half was another entrance; where the beautiful Granados couple makes their grand appearance.

The opening act composed of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folk Songs and Granados’ Three Sorrowful Maja Songs. Entitled, The Songs, it was a medley of romantic love songs. Couples sang in harmony as the audience watched as relationships grew. The cast kept the audience mesmerized as we experienced the various degrees of love.

Rodriguez continued his masterful piano skills as the dancers swayed their hips in rhythm. A speech-language pathologist by day in Bethesda, MD; Bernstein displays her ten-year-dance-journey that started in Washington, DC. Like a butterfly, Bernstein floats on-stage with such ease. Her elegant movements coupled gracefully with the piano. The choreography by Jaime Coronado shows the wonderful relationship between Coronado and the dancers.  

Act II: The Opera, Goyescas or Los Majos Enamorados was written by Enrique Granados in the early 1900s. After being canceled in Paris because of World War I, Goyescas made its North American debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. In 1916, Goyescas was the first Spanish-language Opera at the MET. Overnight, the opera was a success.

Originally performed with a forty-person orchestra, Maestro Rodriguez had no problem delivering an equal powerhouse performance. The cast’s vibrato and harmonies left me in awe. The audience and I were entranced by the excellent voices of Rosario (Fairiuz Foty), Fernando (Peter Burroughs), Paquiro (Alex Alburqueque) and Pepa (Patricia Portillo). The rhythmic choreography performed by the Majas was mesmerizing.

Full of love and drama, the audience watched spellbound as the couple: Rosario and Fernando fell in love. With butterflies in my stomach, they kissed and harmonized. Unbeknownst to them, Paquiro, Rosario’s husband gazed from off-stage. Angrily departing from Rosario, Fernando exits the stage through a floral wooden gate, which served as the wooden door in Act One.

Pop, pop!!! Gunshots are heard off stage and a wounded Fernando comes stumbling through the fence. In classic Spanish-style, four verses and a French-kiss later, Fernando takes his long last breath. Rosario’s stunning acting performance left me teary-eyed. I cried along as the ensemble entered the stage, witnessing the brokenhearted lover mourn. 

While the cast slowly exited the stage and returned for bows, the audience and I stood, tear-stained cheeks and cheerfully clapping. The man sitting next to me asked, “Are you doing a review?” The audience was still applauding, as he spoke. He noticed I had taken notes during the show. Introducing himself as Leonard Wiles, he had bought tickets for Goyescas for his wife and himself. “Excellent, excellent and excellent!” He exclaimed. You could see the joy on his wife’s face as she nodded along. They were recent DC transplants just like myself.

The audience was greeted by the cast and board member as we made our way into the Gala Hispanic Theatre’s Bar Room. Board members chatted with audience members. Since less than half of ticket sales make up half their budget the In-Series relies heavily on member donations and volunteer work.

“I hope you enjoyed the show,” Fairous E. Foty said to me. She played Rosario during the show. “Bravo to you. You were absolutely stunning!” I said, “As my first D.C. opera this was a remarkable experience,” I told her. Walking out the door smile first, I knew I had more than enough material for my review.

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