By:  Hal de Becker


Photos By: Bonita Bunt


Opera Las Vegas presented a tribute to Latin singers, composers and opera themes with a splendid performance at The Smith Center aptly entitled Latin Fiesta.  The program was conceived and directed by James Sohre the company’s new General Director.


Mr. Sohre brings to the position more than 30 years of international experience as a director and producer of theatrical entertainments including opera, concerts and festivals.  His expertise was abundantly apparent in Latin Fiesta.  As MC he also provided informative, often humorous introductions to the numbers.  


The production was structured with diversity that comfortably balanced operatic arias with selections from Spanish operettas known as Zarzuelas.  The inclusion of the latter was a rare treat: Outside of Spanish speaking counties Zarzuelas are unjustly neglected.  


The singers consisted of two sopranos and two tenors superbly accompanied at the piano by Alexandria Le.  Since there was no electronic amplification, which they certainly didn’t need, the direct voice to ear sound was particularly enjoyable.   


Sopranos Trisha Rivera and Sheronda McKee were outstanding.


The sheer beauty of Ms. McKee’s vocal sound was stunning.  She moved easily from the dramatic Un bel di of  Puccini’s Madama Butterfly to the stratospheric coloratura passages of an aria from Geronimo Gimenez’s Zarzuela version of The Barber of Seville.     


Especially moving was her performance in a selection from Daniel Catan’s opera Florencia en el Amazonas that evoked the lush lyricism of the French school of Debussy and Ravel. 


The score, the singing, and the accompaniment by the gifted Ms. Le created a magical moment in an already fine program.    


Ms. Rivera’s strong yet honeyed tone, excellent diction and fiery but always tasteful expressiveness were impressive.  She is clearly an excellent actress as well as singer.      


In Rosina’s aria Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Ms. Rivera effortlessly met the vocal challenges and also captured the character’s coquetry and threatened vindictiveness.  Her ballad approach to Astor Piazzolla’s Yo Soy Maria de Buenos Aires attested to her versatility.  


I have admired tenor Marco Varela’s singing in other concerts but he did not appear to be in top form for this one.  His performance often seemed tentative and his projection weak with usually only the climatic notes receiving a full throated forte.


Gregory Schmidt possessed some of the lighter tone quality of a lyric tenor but delivered soaring vocal power when it was called for.  His performance was secure, confident and polished and his diction exceptional.  In arias by Donizetti, Gounod and Verdi he drew well-deserved ‘bravos!’


OLV’s 2018 season concludes in December with Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck.  Because of its fairy tale association it is often thought of as a children’s opera and youngsters do indeed love it.  However, musically it is a serious and beautiful work.  The composer was a devoted admirer of Richard Wagner whose influence can be heard in the music. 


The company’s 2019 season begins in February with Opera Legends in Black, a celebration of African-American classical musical artists.  More information is available on line at operalasvegas.com or by calling 702-263-6604.