Dulce Rosa

Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

Los Angeles Opera recently launched its Off Grand on the Broad Stage series with a scintillating production of DULCE ROSA, a chamber opera by composer Lee Holdridge and librettist/director Richard Sparks (with Placido Domingo conducting). Adapted from a short story by Isabel Allende (who was in attendance), DULCE ROSA is set in a fictional South American country beset by internal political strife. When a retired politician (Greg Fedderly) refuses to leave his farm and stand for office, an ex-aide of his (Craig Colclough) connives with a guerilla commandante, Juan Aguilar (Alfredo Daza), to seize the reins of power.

Once the coup succeeds, Juan kills the politician, plunders his farm, and rapes his daughter Rosa (Maria Antunez). Next thing you know, Rosa begins to fall in love with the now deeply-ashamed and repenitent Juan, much to the horror of her nanny (Peabody Southwell) and her newly-returned fiance (Benjamin Bliss). Rosa tries to break it off with Juan, but her heart (and the mystifying power of the Stockholm Syndrome) keep that from happening--with tragic consequences.

Despite its dubious ending, DULCE ROSA worked well as an opera, thanks to its melodic and impassioned score--and to the vocal gifts of its talented cast. Jenny Okun's video projections also gave instantaneous color and atmosphere to each of the opera's many settings, a dazzling accomplishment.

It is to be hoped that L.A. Opera will mount many more chamber works at the Broad in years to come.

(Broad Stage, Santa Monica. Call 310-434-3200 or visit thebroadstage.com)