Opera Ithaca flaunted a raw and striking sold out performance of Pagliacci Saturday night. The site-specific production housed in Ithaca’s very own Circus School remained authentic to the Ithacan aesthetic — small and impactful. The show, directed by Zachary James, tells the story of an ensemble of circus performers trapped in a dramatic love triangle. The company, already embraced and well loved by the Ithaca community, is entering its fourth season. Though Ithaca Opera has finished its final performance of Pagliacci, the company has five remaining shows lined up for their 2017/18 season including The Mystery of the Magic Flute, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and Carmen.
Part of the production was watching two staff members rearranging seating as if adjusting choreography in rehearsal as they tried to make room for hopeful audience members who would inevitably be turned away. The company ingratiated its audience, attracting people of all ages. The atmosphere created an accessible space, inviting an interpretation of formality as some came dressed up and others sat on the floor in sneakers. The concept of the invisible wall was casually tossed aside, as two performing artists one standing upon the shoulders of the other paced in front of the makeshift curtain with indifference as people filed in.
The informality and intimate charm of the atmosphere was all the more admired as juxtaposed to a magnificent operatic performance. The production made creative use of every corner in their modest and untraditional stage, yet the vocal aptitude and expertise found within the first Italian phrases created an astonishing element of surprise. The power and grace enveloped in the performers voices reverberated within the small space, a sound worthy and easily able to fill a grand opera house. Their voices ran up and down along with the arpeggios of the piano with powerful grace as acrobatic performances and balancing acts temporarily stole the air from the room. Though the entirety of the ensemble exhibited refined expertise, Tonio, the fool, was in a league all of his own consistently and exquisitely hitting each note with precision. A full range of emotion colored the performance with hammering phrases of intensity transitioning to the light hearted scenes peppering the stage with staccatos.
Opera Ithaca gave a performance in perfect balance. Unencumbered by ostentation the show was not only refreshing but an impressive display of uncompromised talent, inviting to anyone with an appreciation for performance.
Lela Robinson is a sophomore in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She can be reached at [email protected]