In review: Los Gavilanes at Toronto Operetta Theatre Guillermo Silva-Marin as Juan and Chorus, in Toronto Operetta Theatre's Los Gavilanes. Photo: Gary Beechey.

In review: Los Gavilanes at Toronto Operetta Theatre

Jessica Lane

In a word, charming. That is what I experienced tonight with Toronto Operetta Theatre and their Canadian premiere of Jacinto Guerrero’s Los Gavilanes at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. From the simple set to the period costumes, the Spanish orchestration and the simple, well-known tale of love lost (and then found), I was charmed.

I must admit I am not overly familiar with the Spanish zarzuela and for those of you who are also unaware of this genre: go out and see one! At times, it reminded me (and I could be completely wrong here, please tell me if that’s the case!) of the Spanish novella soap opera which has been recently brought into pop culture in the TV series Jane the Virgin. The story contains everything that is needed in a good soap opera: a long lost flame, newly found wealth, a quaint village, a close knit community, a love triangle etc.

Miriam Khalil as Adriana in Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Los Gavilanes. Photo by Gary Beechey.

There was some truly fine singing and exciting performances this evening. The voice that really stole the show was the rich, melodious and plummy tones from Miriam Khalil as Adriana. Right from her first entrance, she sang with the ease and grace of a seasoned pro. Throughout the performance, her character became more and more real. By the end, her final scene “No merece ser feliz” (“He does not deserve happiness”) enraptured the audience and was met with thunderous, well deserved applause. Ms. Khalil is a force to be reckoned with and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

Ernesto Ramírez (Gustavo) who I heard many years ago in Opera Hamilton’s Il barbiere di Siviglia was just as engaging and consistent as I remembered. He is first heard from off stage and hearing a vibrant voice like that without warning was truly exciting. In the Scene of the Flower at the beginning of Act II, Mr. Ramírez was believable as a young, poor man in love. He was absolutely captivating as if the role were written with him in mind.

In the role of Juan, a villager who has become wealthy, was Guillermo Silva-Marin. From his first entrance, Mr. Silva-Marin came out with strength and, at the same time, a lightness that made watching him a lot of fun! The warmth and presence in his voice stands the test of time and resulted in a well-developed, intense performance.

Ernesto Ramírez as Gustavo in Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Los Gavilanes. Photo by Gary Beechey.

Among its singing roles, “Los Gavilanes” has many speaking roles. Gregory Finney as the village mayor was a riot right from the get go. Mr. Finney has impeccable comedic timing and really took advantage of this skill. His movements and reactions were natural and honest while at the same time being massively comical. On the opposite side of the spectrum was the serious and very practical Doña Leontina played expertly by Rosalind McArthur. Ms. McArthur, although surly at the beginning, succeeded in drawing the audience into her worries about her granddaughter. The role was delivered with a rare honesty and made what seemed like an unlikeable character loveable. Sarah Forestieri was the typical ingénue as Rosaura, sweet and likeable, if not consistent and very pleasant on stage.

While there were many strong performances on opening night, some of the spoken dialogue came off as awkward, dry and wooden and although I could understand every word that was being said, the diction often became precise to the point of distraction.

Toronto Operetta Theatre, with a modest set of chairs, a table, some benches, pillars and fabric panels managed to capture a small fishing village town square. The costumes were beautiful and really added to the imagery.

Unfortunately, the simplicity in the set was not carried over to the staging and there were some messy moments with some very literal choreography about marching that got quite intricate and caused some of the cast to pull out of character to find their marks.

The orchestra was led by Larry Beckwith who really understood the Spanish style in the music. It’s so fun to hear all the auxiliary percussion (castanets etc.) that we don’t often get to hear. There seemed to be some moments where the maestro and the cast were not quite together. I am sure some of this was opening night jitters!

Overall, a very enjoyable evening out and best of luck for the rest of the run!

Los Gavilanes runs for three more performances until May 1. For details and ticket information, follow our box office links below.

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