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Atlanta Cultural Arts Reviews: The Secret Agent Opera

posted Nov 26, 2013, 12:00 PM by Catherine Giel   [ updated Nov 27, 2013, 8:06 AM ]
March 16, 2013
By RJH

It's hard to imagine how much work has to go into creating a new opera. A story, a score, a
libretto, sets, costumes, and so much more. And to stage it for three days only, just boggles the mind. But, that's exactly what is being offered to us in Atlanta by Capitol City Opera Company.

The story is that of The Secret Agent, published in 1907, and set in London in 1886 where an anarchist, almost a Trotskyite coeroes an underling to create havoc by setting off a bomb adjacent to the Greenwich Observatory. 

Atlanta composer Curtis Bryant created the score, and a 17 member orchestra is playing live; although they are backstage since there is not pit at the Conant Center. Interesting that the librettist, Allen Reichman, is a retired forensic psychiatrist. No wonder he was so attracted to Joseph Conrad's story line.

The story is one with evil intent, screw-ups, death, grieving, and resolution. Sort of typical opera. One aspect that is quite different is that this one is sung in English, albeit there are a couple of large screen TVs where the words being sung are displayed. That's nice, although you pretty much are going to be able to hear and understand the words coming from the performers. But, these screens also are used to advise the audience of the scene changes, so you know where the action is taking place.

Probably the most unusual voice is that of countertenor Chase Davidson, who is Stevie, the
developmentally delayed young man. That high range is quite rare. Most of the action is carried by Wade Thomas who sings as Adolf Verloc who was coerced by a foreign embassy official, Mr.
Vladimir (Keith Lee) to do the dirty deeds. Stevie's sister, Winnie, is sung by Elisabeth Claxton and in Act II, we meet up with Chief Inspector Heat (Tony Yezzi), whose specialty is investigating anarchists.

Is this one going to be another La Boheme or Traviata? I wouldn't think so. It doesn't have the oldtime charisma, nor memorable melodic passages. But, it is a really wonderful accomplishment for this company which specializes in advancing the careers of local performers and opera specialists. This may be some of the folks you have seen singing at La Petite Auberge in Toco Hills; but we have to stand and salute them for bringing a full-scale production to a stage as they have done. To Artistic Director Michael Nutter, Music Director Catherine Giel, Conductor Michael Giel and each and every member of the cast and crew we say Molto Bravo!

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