I don’t mean to underrate the acting chops of the cast of Pacific Opera Project’s double bill of “Gianni Schicchi” and “L’enfant et les Sortilèges” (The Child and the Spells), but they didn’t appear to be acting on stage this weekend at Occidental College. They seemed genuinely to be having a blast. That level of effusiveness from the entire cast did not feel rehearsed. The result was an absolute delight for the young and the young at heart.
For POP’s 10th anniversary season, the company programmed two short Puccini and Ravel operas, tying them together through one character and repetitions of color and action. Artistic Director Josh Shaw announced before the show began to look for the Easter eggs in the Ravel, which came after intermission.
For a small company, POP never skimps on any of the stuff that makes opera so fun. This double bill featured a cast of 16 amazing singer/actors and an orchestra of 27 talented musicians as well as exquisitely detailed sets and costumes.
POP’s “Gianni Schicchi” is an absolutely hilarious production of Puccini’s only comic opera. There were so many great slapstick and comic moments from every character. I also loved the clever use of secret doors in the set, which transformed from an old man’s mansion bedroom to a little boy’s bedroom (and a forest) for the second story.
Gherardino, the boy who has a bit part in “Gianni Schicchi” (played by Kimberly Sogioka), takes the lead role in “L’enfant.” The room from the first opera retains most of the same furnishings for the second, but takes on a whole different feel. Gherardino is left in his room for misbehaving, and all of the things he has broken and all of the animals he has tormented come to visit him. There is such playfulness in the acting and costuming in this production of what Ravel himself called a “lyric fantasy.” Costumes and lighting are both creative and effective. The tree and the fire, in particular, are beautifully imagined.
This is a wonderful show for kids. Unfortunately, there were only a few kids in the audience on Jan. 25. Hopefully, people will return with kids they know or spread the word to other families.
However, it’s encouraging to add that 500 kids got to see the final dress rehearsal. POP, whose mission is to make opera fun and affordable and draw a younger crowd, invited those students at no cost and supplied their classrooms with educational materials beforehand. This was, Shaw said, the very beginning of their Education Program, which they hope to see grow this season.
This is definitely a company and an effort worth supporting.
—Julie Riggott, Culture Spot LA
The next two performances are Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m. at Thorne Hall, Occidental College. Tickets start at $15. Visit https://www.pacificoperaproject.com/schicchi-l-enfant.