Review: Opera Omaha's 'Medea' is a hauntingly beautiful production
By Drew Neneman
“If walls could talk...” or so the saying goes, and they most often don’t, but sometimes they sing. At the Orpheum Theater on Friday night, Opera Omaha presented Luigi Cherubini’s “Medea.” Shadows sang and voices danced as the adaptation of a 2,400-year-old myth came to life chillingly on the set and its towering walls.
Andrew Eggert directed this interpretation of Fiona Shaw’s 2017 Wexford Festival Opera production. He is to be congratulated on a heartfelt and heart-wrenching presentation.
The soprano Medea, sung by Jessica Stavros in her Opera Omaha debut, remained upon or at least magnetically drawn to a stone structure for most of the show.
That choice left it to actress Lacey Jo Benter, in a haunting and evocative performance, to display the moving, breathing, seducing and murdering action of the character while her words were sung by Stavros.
Their work as counterparts to one another was luminary. The stilled performance of the singing against the gruesome and physical work of the moving actress added a surprisingly lifelike touch. Benter’s remarkable, choreographed experience of Medea’s torment brought a new kind of visual element to a timeless story.
Stavros sung this charged character with a beautiful tone, liveliness and real humanity.
Lighting designer D.M. Wood also made his Opera Omaha debut and deserves particular praise. The role the shadows played upon the set in this “Medea” was inspired.
Glauce was triumphantly sung by Vanessa Becerra in her Opera Omaha debut. Her sweet and strong soprano dominated the first act. Weston Hurt portrayed Creonte with a sorrowful warmth, in another Opera Omaha debut. A beautifully sung debut not to be overlooked was that of tenor Jesus Garcia, singing Medea’s ill fated former husband, Jason.
Naomi Louisa O’Connell returned to Omaha to sing Neris. Her voice and grief stole the show during her second act aria.
Sam Shapiro acted and danced as the supernumerary. He was enchanting as he portrayed whatever supernatural forces were at play in the fate of Medea’s treacherous story.
The Omaha audience affirmed that this is a show worth seeing in its immediate standing ovation. Vengeance and doom in music from two centuries ago, literature from two millennia ago, and a message fresh and thoughtful in any age.