Resonance Works Opens 10th Season with Poignant Pittsburgh Premiere
By George B. Parous
Resonance Works launched a milestone 10th season last night, with the second staging of Jorge Sosa and Cerise Lim Jacobs’ I am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams. First produced in Boston in 2019, the contemporary opera deals head-on with the “American Dream,” and how that “dream” has become more and more just that – a dream; especially for increasingly marginalized groups. DACA. Walls. Separated families. Kids in cages. All of the controversial and poignant catch phrases we pull from current headlines and use as political ammo, as we have been doing for decades. The subject would seem a tall order for one opera to take in – and it is; but Sosa and Jacobs’ collaboration tackles an episode in the lives of two immigrant women. Two women whose tales – or similar ones – might take place in the shadow of Lady Liberty on any given day.
Rosa is a Mexican immigration activist, a hard-working member of the “underground economy” since she was a child, now paying taxes, but faced with prison and deportation after a protest goes wrong. Singa is a Southeast Asian, green card carrying, court-appointed attorney for Rosa, a “model minority,” dominated by her family and societal expectations. The women clash until their plights in life shine a common light and a bittersweet solution to a mutual heartache. It’s a hefty subject to cover in ninety-odd minutes of a one act opera, but the crowd on hand at the Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie made it quite clear they enjoyed the effort.
Maria Sensi Sellner, when she conducts, is a guarantee that the music will be presented with keen insight and an in depth knowledge of, and sympathy with, the score. She demonstrated that gift again last night. The music is an eclectic mix of styles and sounds, coming closest to the “grand opera idiom” in the final bars. Ms. Sellner and her chamber orchestra of excellent musicians played the difficult score in a manner that has come to be expected of them – artistically, with apparent ease, and balanced at all times in favor of the singers on the stage.
Not that any orchestra could have drowned the vocalists of this cast. For the most part, the singing requires a full-throttled fortissimo; an impressive display to a point, but somewhat distracting when the text is in English and it’s impossible to enunciate clearly and sing full blast for long stretches of time. There are, of course, the ever distracting English subtitle projections. Maria Dominique Lopez, as Rosa, displayed a mezzo-soprano of much warmth and brilliance, and although nearly all of the drama in the work is psychological rather than physical, her facial expressions flashed her character’s burning emotions quite tellingly. Helen Zhibing Huang, as Singa, sang with a soprano voice of astonishing power and brilliance. Elizabeth Rosales and Chengxi Tao, two talented youngsters, sang brief passages as Rosa and Singa as young girls in flashbacks. Gabriella Hernandez was another charming young lady who played Sol, Rosa’s daughter.
Natalie Polito, another brilliant soprano with a voice of great range and power, made three entrances in three different costumes to sing a Mother, a Gangster and a Prosecutor. The Pittsburgh Youth Chorus provided the ensemble, tuneful youngsters whose individual voices blended into a very pleasurable whole.
Sunday, October 16, at 3 pm, will be the only repetition. Treat yourself to a fine show and explore the charm of Carnegie (and its number of wonderful eateries) on an autumn Sunday afternoon. For tickets and more about the show visit Resonance Works.
The Production Team for I am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams –
Conductor/Producer, Maria Sensi Sellner; Composer, Jorge Sosa; Creator/Librettist, Cerise Lim Jacobs; Stage Director, Estafanía Fadul; Production Manager & Technical Director, Brennan Sellner; Lighting Designer, Annmarie Duggan; Scenic Designer, Sasha Schwartz; Costume Designer, Damian Dominguez; Sound Designer, Kristian Tchetchko; Stage Manager, Tina Shackleford; Master Electrician, Tyler Hieb; Assistant Stage Manager, Kyle Musgrove; Assistant Conductor, Jeffrey Klefstad; Rehearsal Accompanist, Sara Chiesa; Electrician, Lauren Holmes; Carpenters, Jess Davis & Parker Stephens; Dresser, Meghan Kelly
Photography – Alisa Innocenti