When the Vancouver Opera announced that they would be presenting West Side Story, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a Broadway-style musical or would it be an opera? Turns out, much to my surprise and delight, it was both.
The performance started out with dialogue as the Jets and the Sharks establish edtheir struggle to take power of the neighbourhood, then it rolled into a musical with “The Jet Song,” and then when Tony (Colin Aisnworth) appears, it was opera. In fact it was only Tony and Maria (Lucia Cesaroni) who offer any operatic flair, which makes sense since their music and lyrics are very elegant and passionate. And to be quite honest, it was just the right amount of opera for this story – any more would have been forced. After all, this is a story about the mean streets of New York City in the mid 1950s. Too much opera would have been weird.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed this version of West Side Story (I’ve seen a few and it’s by far the best I’ve ever seen), I found that the lyrics being projected onto the screen really distracted me from the performances especially when you could understand what the performers were saying/singing, as it was all in English. As some of the stage fighting made me giggle at the beginning, but then it got really serious and convincing as the show went on.
Stand-out performances were Aisnworth, Cesaroni, and Cleopatra Williams (Anita). Tracey Kye’s choreography was superb – making thugs look like they do ballet moves everyday.
Next up for the opera – another story about star-crossed lovers. One of the originals, Romeo and Juliet which will run from November 26 to December 3, 2011.