Vanessa

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS - Psy­cho Vanessa, Rear Win­dow

Santa Fe Opera had its first go at a dis­qui­et­ing opera with mu­sic by Sa­muel Bar­ber to a li­bretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, through a pro­duc­tion that hon­ors its for­mi­da­ble strengths while re­tain­ing its spirit of mys­tery. Di­rec­tor James Robin­son says that he drew in­spi­ra­tion from “the psy­cho­log­i­cally tur­bu­lent early films of Ing­mar Bergman … as well as the mid-1940s pe­riod of Al­fred Hitchcock.” The opera, com­posed in the mid-’50s, shares much aes­thetic ground with works by those film­mak­ers. The ac­tion un­rolls in sil­ver-gray sets, de­signed by Allen Moyer, that con­vey the fam­ily’s wealth and how lit­tle de­light it af­fords them. Part­way through the open­ing scene, floor-to-ceil­ing drap­ery cov­er­ing the back of the stage is pulled back to re­veal a huge wall of shat­tered glass — a vis­ual pun that com­bines the ti­tle of Hitchcock’s with the bro­ken-glass im­age that graced the poster for the re­lease of his in Menotti’s Italy.

Cos­tumes, by James Schuette, are stun­ning. Christo­pher Ak­er­lind de­signed evoca­tive light­ing, em­ploy­ing high-con­trast “film noir” ex­ag­ger­a­tion spar­ingly enough to make it dra­mat­i­cally ef­fec­tive rather than a wink­ing cliché.

So­prano Erin Wall brought a lus­cious voice and re­fined pas­sion to the ti­tle role. The part makes chal­leng­ing dra­matic de­mands, but Wall nonethe­less kept it rolling, fueled by both hope and re­sent­ment. Erika was por­trayed by Vir­ginie Ver­rez, a mezzo-so­prano near the out­set of her ca­reer. She is French but sang with per­fect Amer­i­can-English dic­tion, and her de­pic­tion was suit­able for a char­ac­ter whose emo­tional

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