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ROGUE REVIEW: Opera Frantique

Rogue Festival Poster 2014by Tiffany Hurtado

Emily Windler is a Rogue veteran with two solid shows (“Poe and Matthews” and “Gary Has a Date”) under her belt in Fresno, and she returns in “Opera Frantique” to focus her considerable physical comedy skills on a subject ripe for skewering. There’s potential here for a memorable character and a crescendo of laughs, but this aria just keeps getting thinner, finally running out of air.

Windler’s character, Christina Pescalla, is on her farewell concert tour, and she’s here to sing some famous arias and share recollections from her storied career. Dressed in a black strapless evening gown, wide red scarf and white elbow-length gloves, Windler makes the most of her grand entrance when she gets the back of the dress caught on the side of the stage. She excels at small comic moments like these, and as she fumbles up there on stage, periodically yanking up her dress and fumbling with her scarf, the laughs build.

Windler is so good at physical comedy, in fact, that I kept hoping for a lot more of it in “Opera Frantique.” But this show wants to be both a comedy and an opera recital, and the two parts fight with each other. Windler does her own singing, and while she has a trained — and very strong, if not always in control — voice, it’s not impressive enough to carry a performance by itself. Yet as the show builds, the comic moments slip away. The production feels rough and unfinished. Instead of a fully realized character, we get a half realized recital. (Windler told the audience after her bow that this was the show’s first performance.)

What the show needs is more recollections, more secondary characters (Windler creates a memorable teacher), more pointed opera jokes (there’s so much that can be done poking fun at opera plots and rituals) and a better handle on who Christina Pescalla is. (Is she doddering? Mediocre? So brilliant she can afford to slip up? Or just eccentric?) It needs more snippets of singing and less full-length arias. And, lastly and most important, a director. (See my “Steve Seabrook: Better Than You” review.) Windler could offer a diva-worthy performance in a reworked show, but she has a ways to go.

Details: 8 p.m. march 6, 6:30 p.m. March 7, 2 and 8 p.m. March 8, Strummer’s. $10 in Rogue Bucks.

Responses to "ROGUE REVIEW: Opera Frantique"

Doug Gordon says:

See, I totally disagree about Opera Frantique, Donald, but maybe that’s because (1) I don’t like opera and have never really been to any; and (2) I had zero expectations of what this show was going to be, so I was terrifically surprised by it. For me, it was opera in a comic format that I could enjoy. Even a Philistine like me could tell that her voice was probably not the world’s best, or that she hit a couple of dingers, but the comedy was truly funny (which is always a question mark with Rogue comedies) and she surprised the hell out of us all when she belted out those songs, which were really enjoyable. I agree with you that there could be more story-telling – for instance, I cracked up at her explanations of Mimi’s story from “La Boheme,” and more of that type stuff would’ve been welcome. But overall, I would (and did) recommend this show with a large thumbs-up!
Doug

blake says:

full disclosure before even beginning:
1) I’m an undying Rogue booster
2) I’m a huge fan of Ms. Windler’s.

I’d seen her earlier Rogue shows multiple times…I had to. I had to drag friends and family there. “You gotta see this.”
The fact that she’s visited 3 times and done 3 vastly different shows just cements my geeky fanboyness.—-no, I take that back. Not “geeky fanboyness”….an admiration for a brave performer and artist.
I *have* seen a bit of opera…performed by students at universities, and professionals in both the exotic land of Fresburg and several times in various big ol’/ old ol’ cities in Europe.
*I* think this lady has a formidable handle on what it takes to smack an aria like ” o mio babbino caro’ both outta the ballpark and into a your heart.

I believe this is a brave show. She was testing the waters with it for the first time here in Fresno…at our sweet little Rogue Festival. Hot dang. It/ and she…are only gonna get more more amazing as she goes.
Looking forward to whatever she brings next time.
(and if she ever wants to go ‘dueling banjos’ with a theremin on the Puccini aria—-I hope she lets me know.)

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