Review: Goyescas, chas!

The In Series presents Goyescas by Enrique Granados.

Gala Hispanic Theater through December 18, 2016

The experience of Goyescas is nothing short of a pure magical blend of Spanish Romanticism and Nationalism. Enrique Granados himself would be thrilled if he was alive to see this mesmerizing and well-executed production. The Goyescas cast depict a deeply authentic window into 1900s Spanish culture and lifestyle. Costume designer, Donna Breslin showed her exacting expertise in Spanish fashion and style. Clad in red, black, and white chiffon corsets, the ladies presented authentic Spanish beauty. Decked out in sling capes and cropped Matador jackets, the men’s authentic Spanish-style fashion was followed by A-plus acting and raw talent. All of which came together to leave the rapt audience feeling transported 100 years ago to the height of the Spanish Renaissance.

As my first D.C. opera, I had no clue what to expect. My only thought was that I was going to approach the Gala Hispanic Theater’s  black box theater with an open mind.The Gala Hispanic theater proved that it knew how to present a top-notch, world-class and historically accurate show. Within the first few piano strokes, I could guarantee you that Enrique Granados was doing grand battements in his grave; rejoicing over director Jaime Coronado’s artistic perspective on Goyescas.

As someone who is intimately familiar with some of the best pianists in the world, Maestro Rodriguez truly became my overnight favorite. The entire night was a magical experience that still cannot be described except through one Spanish phrase I learned that night, Chas! – not Chaz as in myself, but Chas, a Spanish idiom that means something that is always sang or cheered in the happiest of moments in the show.

The Gala Hispanic Theater’s deliverance of authentic Spanish fashion and lifestyle was made known from the moment Enrique Granados (Oscar Ceville) and his wife, Amparo Granados  (Cara Gonzalez) swayed and sang in harmony, opening up the first act. Their beautiful rolling Spanish accents reverberated and filled the entire theater. Immediately, they became the center of attention.

The black box theater showed us the true importance of how minimalism and talent can create such a diverse and complete set. The stage was simply comprised of four two-top tables, stage right, Maestro Rodriguez captivated the audience and stage left, a wooden door, one of three major entrances. Dividing the set in half was another entrance; where the beautiful Granados couple make their first appearance.

Act One, entitled The Songs, was set in March 24, 1916 aboard the Sussex. Later in the Act, the black box transforms into a Cafe in Madrid. Set design by Jonathan Dahm Robertson and Lighting Design by Stefan Johnson showed their flawless range of design and artistry.

Hypnotizing the audience with their fluid movement, dancers, Alisa Bernstein, Sara Herrera and Heidi Kershaw, deliver their capable talent and professional experience as multi-faceted dancers. A speech-language pathologist by day in Bethesda, MD; Bernstein displays her ten year dance-journey that started in Washington, DC. She floats on-stage with such grace and skill, coupling gracefully with the beautiful notes of the piano. The Spanish style dancing choreographed by Jaime Coronado shows the brilliance and creative relationship between Coronado and the dancers.  From sensual salsa to high-kicking flamenco, the dancers made me relish my days when I first learned and first fell in love with Bachata, Merengue and Salsa and Belly Dancing at Michigan Montessori International Academy.

Spanish style portraits were projected upon various size screens that lavishly decorated the background of the compelling set. Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folk Songs and Granados’ Three Sorrowful Maja Songs were produced into a wonderful rendered medley inspired by the portraits.
In less than an hour, the Maestro led the superbly talented cast and together they created a raw feeling of what Spanish Romanticism is truly about: Love and heart-break.

The audience watched as relationships blossomed and grew, while others argued and failed. I marveled at such a wonderful and artistic way to show the vices and virtues of love.

With a 15 minute intermission, I gulped down my Corona and rushed back to my seat waiting, like the true fangirl of Spanish Operas that I had become.

Act II: The Opera, composed by Enrique Granados in the early 1900s is entitled Goyescas or Los Majos Enamorados. After being cancelled in Paris because of World War I, Goyescas made its North American debut in New York’s Metropolitan Opera. In 1916, Goyescas was the first Spanish-language Opera at the MET, the opera was a success.

Originally performed with a forty-person orchestra, Maestro Rodriguez had no problem delivering an equally powerhouse performance here. The cast’s blend of beautiful lyric voices left me in awe throughout Act Two. Melodies, dancing and scenes would go by without a glance towards the subtitle screens. The audience and I were hooked. Personally, I was entranced by the excellent voices of: Rosario (Fairiuz Foty), Fernando (Peter Burroughs), Paquiro (Alex Alburqueque) and Pepa (Patricia Portillo).

The rhythmic choreography performed by the Majas was mesmerizing. With flair, fashion and flamencos, the dance solos were audience favorites and key highlights of the opera’s overall performance offerings.

Full of love and drama, the audience watched spellbound as the couple: Rosario and Fernando, sang and fall romantically in love. With butterflies in my stomach, they kissed and sang in harmony. Unbeknownst to them both, Paquiro, Rosario’s husband gazed from off-stage.

“Gruntly” departing from Rosario, Fernando exits the stage through the floral wooden gate, which served as the wooden door in Act One.

Pop, pop!!! Gunshots are heard off stage and a wounded Fernando comes stumbling through the fence. In classic Spanish Romanticism style, four verses and a French kiss later Fernando takes his long last breath. Rosario’s stunning acting performance left me teary-eyed and heartbroken. I wept along as the ensemble entered the stage, singing and becoming overwhelmed by the tragedy they slowly stumbled upon.
With the cast slowly exiting the stage and returning to line up for bows, the audience and I all stood with tear-stained cheeks, clapping in feisty unison. The man to my left asked me, “Are you doing a review?” The audience was still applauding as the cast exited. He had noticed that I had been taking notes during the show.

Introducing himself as Leonard Wiles, he had bought tickets for Goyescas for his wife and himself. “Excellent, excellent and excellent!” He exclaimed. You could see the joy on his wife’s face as she nodded along. They were recent DC transplants just like myself. They were determined to meet and congratulate the cast.
Exiting the stairwell from the black box, the audience was waved in and welcomed to the Gala Hispanic Theatre’s Bar Room by its cast and board members. Audience members mingled and made donations to the non-profit organization. Since less than half of ticket sales make up half their budget, the In-Series relies heavily on member donations and volunteer work.

“I hope you enjoyed the show,” Fairous E. Foty said to me as I shook her hand.

“Bravo, to you and the whole entire cast. As my first D.C. opera this was a remarkable experience,” I told her.  Exiting the door, with a smile upon my face, The In-Series gained one more new member and one more new donor.

Goyescas closes at the In Series Opera & more, this weekend. Saturday, December 17 at 8pm and Sunday, December 18 at 7pm. 202-204-7763 for tickets or visit www.inseries.org.

UPDATE: Update: Tickets are 50% off this weekend!


Chaz McCarter is a reviewer for TheDCPLACE He is a recent transplant of Florida. Chaz is an accomplished writer of narratives and stories that explore Black Queer culture and society. With over a decade of theater experience on stages small and large, Chaz is excited to explore the performing arts community of the DMV Region. You can reach him at:  thedcplacemedia@gmail.com.