Just returned from the first performance of grand opera at the Pomona Fox Theater. OK, I admit that I went because I want to be supportive of this type of use of the Fox (no I wasn't at the Marilyn Manson concert). But I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the afternoon immensely.
I'm afraid that I'm musically challenged and don't know a contralto from a contra bassoon. As a result I wouldn't even begin to attempt a review of the performance, but I can comment on the experience.First off, we sat in the front part of the balcony (the mezzanine?) with the extra wide leather seats. The $30 price was general admission anywhere in the balcony and we were there early enough to get into those great seats. I've been to a lot of venues and have never had seats that comfortable, even for movies! Yes, I was able to sit on my ample back side without twinging during the entire 2.5 hours. I'm also a little hard of hearing (what?) and am pleased to say that the acoustics at the Fox were surprisingly good without a lot of extra amplification.
The music was provided entirely by piano and musical director Brian Farrell. The staging was very minimalist with just a few boxes and steps providing the scene and then a lot of hand props and costumes adding the flavor to the action.
While the singing was mostly in Italian (with a few wink-winks of English to help with key plot elements) there was also some English narration provided by Robert Arce and Rochelle Firestone which helped if you got lost. The main way to follow the action was to read the two page synopsis of the storyline BEFORE the start of the performance.
The story follows Nemorino, Matt Dunn, who is in love with Adina, Leslie Dennis, but is too shy to approach her due to her beauty. Along comes Belcore, Raul Matas, who is a soldier who enchants Adina. Nemorino is crushed and seeks the help of snake-oil salesman Ducamara, Arthur Freeman, who sells him some bordeaux rebranded as love potion. Of course that's when things get interesting. The comic parts, especially with Ducamara or Belcore, were quite enjoyable and you didn't need to understand the language to enjoy it.
Of course everything comes out well in the end.
I learned that the presales for this performance were about 300 (we bought out tickets at the door). Hopefully that will be enough to encourage the Repertory Opera Company to use the Fox in the future. During intermission we saw councilman Tim Saunders and is wife Dawn, as well as DPOA director Larry Egan. They had VIP seating in the orchestra area of the auditorium which was set up with tables and plastic chairs. Upon arriving at home, we had our Pomona Heritage mail (our membership director collects it once a week so we don't see it in a timely manner) and we had received an invitation to attend as VIP guests. Considering everything we're glad we paid and got to sit in the comfortable seats. We're also glad we were able to help support opera at the FOX!