Under the musical direction of David Costa, Operetta, performed at Theatre Antoine in Paris, offers an opportunity to witness the blending of theatrical styles, music from different operas, and contrasting fashion styles of the old and new. The aspect of the performance that stands apart, however, is the ability of the vocalists to both act and sing at the same time. Although it is expected in other forms of theatre, this is a special talent considering the amount of technique and breath required to perform an opera; and yet, the vocalists emulate athletes biking and skiing, run around the stage, and move props—all with grace and ease.
Despite enjoying the performance thoroughly, I found myself wondering why certain movements were included. For example, in one of the final acts of the performance, it seemed as though there was a lot of head bobbing and an awkward rendition of “the wave,” segregating vocalists depending on vocal range (the altos went up to sing their part, then a group of sopranos would pop up on the other side, etc.). It was interesting at first, considering the stage formed some sort of level system and vocalists would disappear into the set scene. However, it became distracting after a while. This was the exception to the rest of the performance, though.
Unlike musical theatre, operas do not use music to complement dialogue in story lines; rather, they rely on the music and expressions to convey a story. Operetta was traditional in that sense. Yet, it reminded me more of a musical because of all the acting and set/prop changes. This is the beauty of Operetta. It uses well-known songs from operas and accompanies them to modern day situations. From filming a movie, to falling in love, to watching a performance, Operetta gives new meaning to the traditional opera. And it’s fantastic.