Peanut wanted to sleep undisturbed last night after dinner so he insisted that I attend a performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium” presented by the Long Beach Camerata Singers’ Chorus Council. He certainly made a good choice because the performance was remarkable, both from the standpoint of the music as well as the venue.
“The Medium” tells the story of Madam Flora (played by Tiffani Santiago), who holds séances for bereaved people with the assistance of her children, Monica (played by Sarah Goodwin) and the mute adopted boy, Toby (played by Trinidad Cano). Although Madam Flora is a fake, one night she feels hands tighten around her throat and she is subsequently driven mad as she realizes that they were actually the hands of the spirits.
The name of the company that presented the opera is Artists in Operation, formed by Trinidad Cano to give up-and-coming artists performance opportunities beyond the university and the professional stage, both of which are limited, albeit for different reasons. All of the performers are either students or recently graduated, but exhibited a high degree of professionalism, acting ability and sang gloriously.
The two main characters, Madam Flora and Monica, had demanding parts requiring a great deal of power. One very effective scene had Madam Flora mouthing the words of the departed during a séance while Monica sang the part off-stage; the effect was very spooky and unusual.
The mute boy, Toby, never sang a note, but Cano’s acting was excellent and conveyed the character’s thoughts and emotions deftly. The composer wrote Toby’s part in such a way that his sister voiced his thoughts, her hands on his chest, channeling them to us where he was unable to sing or speak.
Annabel Martinez, Jose Zamarripa and Lindsey Gonzalez, the bereaved parents, sang beautifully and had a great emotional impact in their roles, quite extraordinary for such young people to be so believable in roles beyond their age and experience. Finally, the pianist, Scott Farthing, was excellent
The other “character” in the performance was the venue, an elegant and sprawling estate in Virginia Country Club. The Dining Room was used to stage the opera and it was so large that, even with 40 chairs in the round, plenty of space was left in the middle for the singers to perform comfortably. This was a very creative instance of making the arts accessible to the audience: they were only an arm’s length away. The down side of this arrangement was that occasionally the volume was uncomfortable when the action was at its peak.
The evening was produced by Joe Ward and the Long Beach Camerata Singers’ Chorus Council and was hosted by Dr. Marlene Farooq.