2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
, November 13, 2011
Having seen the oratorio presentation of Rio De Sangre at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2005, I was eager to see the world premiere of the complete opera by the Florentine Opera Company. I was not disappointed--the music, performers (to varying degrees), staging and choreography were powerful and impressive. Although I hesitate to use the trite description "spellbinding," that is in fact what this opera is, even if you aren't an opera lover. Drawing on the harsh realities of the cycle of political upheavals, the story dramatizes the aftermath of a coup d'état in a fictional South American country; a new regime with renewed hope and promise; and the seduction of the new leader, Delacruz, by ultimate power while he nevertheless maintains some idealism and good intentions, which are hampered by sabotage and his limited experience. Earthquakes and its ensuing consequences devastate the lives of many of the country's oppressed people as well as Delacruz's immediate family. A traitor exploits the situation with lies, kidnapping and assassination, ultimately enabling him to seize power. It is at once bittersweet, dismaying, agitating, and compelling. It draws you in and although you can't mistake the impending doom, you must know the resolution.
Don Davis is a highly accomplished and respected composer with an impressive body of work including the Matrix movie trilogy and much more, but this opera is, in my opinion, his masterpiece. From dark and foreboding to emotionally gripping to gut wrenching to majestic, the music reveals Davis's artistic influences including Witold Lutoslawski and Dmitri Shostakovich (except of course in the salsa "source" music). The talented librettist Kate Gale has done a brilliant job of allegorical storytelling in a plot that, while disturbing, captivates the audience nonetheless. The Spanish language libretto gives added beauty to the vocal performances and a sense of authenticity to the story line. The cd insert includes the full libretto in both Spanish and English, side by side for easy reference. The recording itself is sparkling and clear.
Be forewarned though: this is not fluff. The music and libretto are challenging and complex, and require the listener to become intellectually and emotionally involved to reap the rewards of this work.