Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Il Postino

Opera Southwest
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Also see Carla's review of Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus and Rob's review of Murder on the Orient Express

Alex Richardson, Brenna Fisch, Francine Stefan,
and Maureen Torrez

Photo by Lance W. Ozier
The Opera Southwest production of Il Postino, with music and lyrics by Daniel Catán, is subtitled The Awakening of the Poetic Spirit. It does indeed awaken the senses, bringing together many aesthetic elements in a first-class presentation that is not to be missed.

The opera, commissioned in 2010 by the Los Angeles Opera, Vienna Opera, and Théâtre du Châtelet shortly before Catán's death, marks the first co-production for Opera Southwest. It is produced with Virginia Opera and Chicago Opera Theatre.

Il Postino is presented at the Journal Theatre in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center. This is a fully realized professional production with outstanding singer/actors, a 23-piece orchestra conducted by local favorite Guillermo Figueroa, and a beautifully realized set design enhanced by masterful lighting and video projections. Set in Italy, the opera is sung in Spanish with English supertitles above the proscenium.

The source of the opera is complex; Catán based the opera on the novel "Ardiente Paciencia" by Antonio Skármenta and the film adapted from it by Michael Radford. The action takes place on a fictitious island off the coast of Italy that stands in for Capri, where the Chilean poet/diplomat/politican and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda was exiled in the 1950s. In the imagined action of the opera, Neruda meets and forms an unlikely friendship with the local postman, Mario. They discuss the metaphors of life as Mario learns poetry to woo his beloved Beatrice. Their interaction is set against the background of conflicting political and spiritual ideologies and the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean.

This is a lot to incorporate, but stage director Crystal Manich has meshed all these elements into a cohesive and moving collage with echoes of magical realism. Her use of three female tango dancers, although confusing at first, is just the right touch to enhance the flow of the production. The lyrical becomes visual and she has captured a cinematic quality. The set, lighting, and projection design is perfectly in harmony with her vision of the opera.

The music is modern but not discordant, with several opportunities for beautiful duets and quartets. There are no showstopping arias, but the music enhances the plot and the characters. It is a very integrated opera. All the performers are actors, as well as singers who move well. Even the chorus members are focused at all times.

Opera Southwest has grown tremendously in the last fifteen years. Excellent administration, board support and strategic decision-making has allowed the company to grow to three productions each season. They are able to bring quality talent to Albuquerque while continuing to support and develop local singers, musicians, and creative team members.

This is opera at its most accessible. I saw Il Postino at a matinee on Super Bowl Sunday; the performance in the 700-seat theater was sold-out. I urge you to catch one of the two remaining performances. This is an outstanding production full of spectacle, humor, and food for thought.

Opera Southwest's Il Postino runs through February 9, 2020, at the Journal Theatre, National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th St. SW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets $19-$99. For information and tickets call 505-243 0591 or visit

Music and libretto by Daniel Catán. Conducted by Guillermo Figueroa. Directed by Crystal Manich. Scenic Design by Liliana Duque Pineriro. Lighting Design by Paul Hackenmueller. Projection Design by Tlaloc Lopez Watermann. Costume Design by Alice Fredrickson. Chorus Master, Aaron Howe.

Cast: Alex Richardson, Cecilia Violetta Lopez, Raul Melo, Cammy Cook, Lina Ramos, John Tiranno, Paul Bower, Ivan Conrad, and the Opera Southwest Chorus