Tolucan Times
June 28, 2012

A Fabled Chamber Opera at Pasadena Playhouse

By Bonnie Priever

You don’t have to be an opera aficionado to enjoy Aesopera, a pentaptych chamber opera inspired by the fables of Aesop in concert, recently enjoying its run at the Pasadena Playhouse. But an interest in lyrical opera and musical theater, ala the style of Sondheim, certainly does help. Like fine wine and vintage antiques, the love of opera is an acquired taste, a most amazing, theatrical art form, and the Southern California Lyric Theatre meets the expectations of its audience, with an amplified theater experience, complete with moral messages of the day, relating to our current political climate, much like Aesop did, with his story telling, involving animals who speak and have human characteristics. Each cast member, Brooke deRosa, Elyse Cook, Nandani Maria Sinha, Miguel Vargas, Jonathan Medina, and Jeffrey Stackhouse have extensive training in the world of opera, both chamber and traditional, and welcomed the opportunity to express themselves with experimental, edgy musical theater material. This production is truly a creative, powerful re-examination and re-interpretation of the classic Aesop’s fables, including: “The Lion & the Wood Nymph,” based on The Lion in Love; and “The Queen & the Dragon,” based on The Dog & His Shadow. Each performer brings to the stage immense talent, stage presence, impeccable comedic timing, and beautiful, breathtaking arias and librettos. Brava to the exquisite Brook deRosa, who in her portrayal of ‘Fortune,’ in The Fisher & the Wishes, plays an illustrious heroine, with the profound message: “What good is one’s fortune when blessings are mixed?” Between elaborate costumes, an authentic Roman set, haunting, stirring melodies based on riddles, and beloved, timeless fables, the talented ensemble maintains a comfortable, natural rapport, with a full range of emotions and vocals, bringing opera to the masses. Of particular note is the extraordinary pianist/music director, Leonardo Sciolis, who, with humor and charisma, perfectly complements the company of operatic gems. Aesopera is sure to appeal to opera lovers and novices, of every generation, with its amazing, inspiring lyrics and grand drama.