Music, puppets, rabbits, fish, a lion, a monster and a super clever cat–all the ingredients for a charming and adorable show. El gato con botas by Catalán composer, Xavier Montsalvatge, was presented in Spanish on December 11 at 7:00 pm by Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City at the Museo del Barrio. This was a revival of their premiere in 2010. I don’t know how I missed that premiere, but I’m glad that I was able to catch the revival. It was a very delightful evening.
By far, the puppets upstaged all the human characters and the music, and the inanimate brought to life, stole the show. Overall the singing of the 60 minute opera was well done. Andrea Carroll, the princess, displayed beautiful lush toned singing, perfectly appropriate for her role. Kevin Burdette, thoroughly embodied the ogre character, through his precise singing and parallel movements and expressions with the giant puppet. As the cat, Karin Mushegain, delivered with gusto. In general I did not find the Spanish lyrics very idiomatic–I had to refer to the subtitles (and I am a fluent speaker of Spanish). I could not tell if that was due to the way the lyrics were set or the singers familiarity with the language as everything was pronounced correctly.
Since the musical score includes some instrumental interludes, there were opportunities for stage business and dances among the puppets. The puppetry was nothing short of spectacular. The skill and preparation of those artistis working the strings was evident. The only weakness, from my vantage point (right orchestra seat) was that the cat singer, was too visible and upstage the cat puppet. It was difficult to concentrate on the cat when she was singing. I wonder if having the singers in the pit might have been less distracting.
Gotham Chamber Opera and the entire cast and production crew deserve kudos for this production. There were many partners involved in making it happen, from the Guggenheim Works in Progress, Museo del Barrio, Tectonic Theater Project and all of the generous patrons. El gato con botas is an obscure opera by an relatively unknown composer (really only familiar to those that study Spanish music). The opera is short and sweet and the Gotham Chamber Opera production is light and fun!